Cushendall and Antrim stalwart Arron Graffin is Conor Donnelly’s guest this week on his excellent Saffcast.
The football areas of the county may be in mouring tonight after their shock defeat to Cavan in the Ulster final, but the hurling fraternity in Donegal will be celebrating after their hurlers staged a brilliant fightback to beat Mayo in the final of the Nicky Rackard Cup in Croke Park.
Those celebration will shared in Ballycastle and Carey as the Tir Chonaill team was captained by Sean McVeigh, son of ex Carey Faughs and Ballycastle player Cruiser McVeigh. He is also a cousin of former Loughgiel star, and current Antrim selector Johnny Campbell
The man himself actually played for the Town for a year in 2009 and scored 2-1 on his debut down in Ballygalget. He was plying his trade in forwards back then but today he was pivoting the Donegal defence at centre half back.
Donegal came from eight points down to beat Mayo in a thrilling Nickey Rackard Cup final at Croke Park.
Late goals from Tipperary native Davin Flynn and full forward Ritchie Ryan helped the Tir Chonaill men to their third success in the fourth-tier hurling championship after they had looked down and out midway through the first half. A nine-point haul from Armagh native Declan Coulter was also central to the Ulster side’s victory.
There is another Antrim connection from that game. Sean Regan, who was midfield on the Mayo team is son of Johnny Regan from Cushendall and Anne Patterson from Cloughmills. His uncle Niall Patterson was of course the goalkeeper on the Antrim team who played Tipperary in the 1989 final and was the man who captained Loughgiel to their first All Ireland Club title in 1983.
There was a sense of inevitability about it as Cavan took the field against Donegal at the Athletic Grounds today in the Ulster football final. Despite the Tir Connell men starting as 10/1 on favourites it was Micky Graham’s Breffni Blues who emerged as winners after a dogged performance to complete a quartet of semi-finalists, the same four as qualified for the All Ireland semis 100 years ago.
Earlier in the day Tipperary turned in a fine performance to overcome the challenge of Cork in a good Munster final while Dublin’s facile victory over Meath last night in the Leinster decider and Mayo’s emergence from Connaught completed the set.
As tens of thousands of candles burned in windows all over Ireland and indeed anywhere in the world where there are Irish communities Jane Boyle, James Burke, Daniel Carroll, Michael Feery, Tom Hogan, Michael Hogan, James Matthews, Patrick O’Dowd, Jerome O’Leary, William (Perry) Robinson, Thomas Ryan, John William (Billy) Scott, James Teehan and Joe Traynor, the 14 victims of that slaughter by the British forces on the 21st November 1920, surely smiled down on Croke Park as the GAA commemorated the Anniversary of their passing.
Cavan manager Micky Graham, captain Raymond Galligan and man of the match Thomas Galligan fought back tears as they told just what this victory meant to them in interviews after the final whistle and I couldn’t help think that we were witnessing something special in a year that certainly has been different.
Cavan’s win over Donegal sets them up with an unenviable pairing with Dublin while Tipperary’s victory over Cork sees them face Mayo in the other semi-final and both Cavan and Tipperary will start as underdogs but in a year when the Breffni men have displayed remarkable resilience and a bag-full of ability, write them off at your own peril!
TG4 All-Ireland Junior Semi-final
Wicklow 7-11 Antrim 3-10
By Kevin Herron
Three goals at the end of the first-half were crucial in sending Wicklow on their way to the final of the TG4 All-Ireland Junior ladies Championship after a 7-11-3-10 win over Antrim at Ashbourne this afternoon.
Meadhbh Deeney’s early strike had Wicklow in the ascendancy but Antrim weren’t deterred until late in the first-half when a blitz of goals from Clodagh Fox, Deeney and Marie Kealy floored them.
Cathy Carey thought she had given her side a glimmer of hope with a goal ten minutes after the restart but Kealy and Fox added further majors for Wicklow.
To their credit the Saffrons refused to roll over and hit the net twice before the games conclusion through Aoife Taggart and Bronagh Devlin- in the end though it was scant consolation as Wicklow advanced to the All-Ireland decider in a few weeks’ time.
Wicklow made the ideal start and found the net within three minutes and it was a well worked move through the hands as Clodagh Fox passed the ball to captain Laura Hogan who spotted Meadhbh Deeney on the outside and Deeney slotted into the corner of the net.
Lara Dahunsi replied for Antrim at the other end but Laura Hogan combined with Marie Kealy for a point to re-establish the goal lead.
Antrim continued to work hard and found their second point of the afternoon through a converted Aoife Taggart free.
Though goal-scorer Deeney popped over her first of the afternoon and Marie Kealy converted a free to give her side a 1-03-0-02 lead.
Cathy Carey dragged Antrim back into proceedings with two tremendous points from range to make it a two-point game once again.
Wicklow should have been further ahead but their shot selection was rather wayward and eventually Sarah Miley got her angles spot-on to make a one goal game with half-time looming.
The pre-game favourites showed why they were considered favourites for the competition with a three-goal blitz before the break.
Alanna Conroy did well to snuff out an Antrim side-line ball in Wicklow territory and begin a counter-attack which saw Meadhbh Deeney slip the ball into corner-forward Clodagh Fox for a simple goal to make it 2-04-0-04.
Hungry for more a third goal arrived on the stroke of half-time as Hogan switched the play to Sarah Miley who in turn fed Meadhbh Deeney for a second goal of the half.
Meadbh McCurdy pulled a score back after a quick switch with Lara Dahunsi but there was still time for Wicklow to score their fourth goal before the break.
Laurie Ahern burst up the field and popped the ball inside to Meadhbh Deeney, Deeney picked out her captain Laura Hogan whose shot looped over Anna McCann and appeared to have been helped to the net by Marie Kealy to ensure their side were 4-04-0-05 ahead at the interval.
Wicklow stretched their lead after the restart with Laura Hogan producing a marvellous score and Kealy and Deeney chipping in minutes later.
Grainne McLoughlin hit back for Antrim after some good work from Nicole Jones but Sarah Miley responded at the other end.
The Saffrons were in need of some goals if they had any aspirations of mounting a comeback and they were offered a brief glimmer of hope when Grainne McLoughlin picked up possession, played a one-two and guided the ball into the path of Cathy Carey who shot low to the net to make it 4-08-1-06.
Although their hope was extinguished within the space of 60-seconds as Laura Hogan drove forward and picked out Marie Kealy for the corner-forwards second goal of the afternoon.
The duo linked up again a few minutes later as Kealy added a point to her tally and midway through the second-half Wicklow had goal number six.
Hogan was involved for the fourth time in one of her sides goals as she slipped the ball to Clodagh Fox who picked her spot in the net to make it 6-09-1-06.
Antrim only had pride to play for in the final third of proceedings and to their credit they continued to battle.
Wicklow midfielder Aoife Gorman was sin-binned for a pull back and Antrim had a numerical advantage.
They made the most of it within less than a minute as Lara Dahunsi slipped the ball to Aoife Taggart and the Aldergrove player struck low to the net.
A period of pressure in the aftermath couldn’t yield any further scores though and Wicklow struck goal number seven with six minutes remaining.
Marie Kealy unselfishly slipped the ball to opposite corner-forward Clodagh Fox for Fox’s third goal of the game.
Cathy Carey converted a free in response and Lara Dahunsi was on target for her second point of the contest shortly after.
On 57 minutes substitute’s Naoise Burns and Bronagh Devlin combined with Devlin sending the ball to the net to make it 7-09-3-08.
The last four scores of the game were equally shared between the sides Marie Kealy with her sides final two scores- one from the play and the other from a free to bring her personal tally to 2-06.
Cathy Carey topped scored for Antrim with 1-04, her final point coming from her second converted free of the afternoon with Lara Dahunsi claiming her third of the contest at the death- mere consolation as Wicklow ran out 7-11-3-10 winners at the conclusion to take their place in the decider with Fermanagh at Parnell Park next month.
Antrim: A McCann, N McIntosh, O Corr, N Webb, N Enright, S Tennyson, L Dahunsi (0-03), C Brown, A Tubridy, G McLoughlin (0-01), C Carey (1-04, 0-02f), A Taggart (1-01, 0-01f), N Jones, M McCurdy (0-01), A McFarland. Subs: N Burns for N Jones (38), F Rocks for G McLoughlin (41), C Stewart for N Webb (45), B Devlin (1-00) for M McCurdy (49).
Wicklow: L Dempsey, E Mulhall, S J Winders, L Dunne, A Conroy, S Hogan, J Nolan Byrne, A Gorman, J Kinch, L Ahern, L Hogan (1-01), S Miley (0-02), C Fox (3-00), M Deeney (2-02), M Kealy (1-06, 0-02f). Subs: N McGettigan for S Hogan (HT), H Dowling for L Ahern (44), J Byrne for L Dunne (51), S Goetelen for N Byrne (51), S McGettigan for C Fox (58).
Referee: L O’Sullivan (Dublin)
Antrim tonight named former Tyrone star Enda McGinley as the man to succeed Lenny Harbinson as senior football manager. After inteviews earlier in the week the Antrim board have moved quickly to appoint the new boss. Former Armagh star Tony McEntee was also rumoured to be in the running with Portglenone’s Kevin Madden as his assistant but the Antrim board have opted for McGinley.
The Errigal Ciarn clubman brings a very strong backroom team on board with one of Tyone’s greatest forwards Stephen O’Neill joined by Stephen Quinn and Sean Kelly. McGinley does have connections in Antrim as he is married to a sister of Cargin and Antrim stalwarts Michael and Tomas McCann.
Like his predecessors McGinley’s first task will be to try and steer Antrim out of Division 4 and if he can keep his brother in laws on board it would be a big boost to the Saffron’s chances.
The Saffron Gael wish Enda and his backroom team every success in their new role