A game that was mediocre in the extreme ended in a welter of excitement as a late Ciaran Clarke point gave Ballycastle victory over Ballycran in Sunday’s Antrim Hurling League Division 1 game at Pairc MacUílin. The win, that or long periods of a mistake ridden game had appeared unlikely lifted Ballycastle into to the top six, and a couple of players that I spoke to after game thought they were in the top half of the table. However they were made aware afterwards that it is in fact going to be a top five, and they now face two journeys down the Ards in the second half.
In a mistake ridden opening half Ballycran were well on top and with the wind blowing up into the Rathlin end of the ground they led by 0-9 to 0-4 at half time.
Ballycastle started the second half in a more positive fashion and points from Ronan Laverty, Ciaran Clarke and Ciaran Butler the cut the gap to two. Ballycran came back with points Phelim Ward, Ben Arthurs and Conor Woods to restore their five point cushion. Ballycastle came with three in a row through Joe McToal, Rueben McClean and Ciaran Clarke to leave just two between the teams, and they hit the front on 50 minutes when a clever free from Clarke put Dairmaid McShane in for a goal.
Conor Dorrian brought the sides level again with a pointed free but when Clarke, Laverty and Ronan McCarry put them three clear entering injury time the home side appeared to be home and hosed. However Ballycran hit back right away and when Gerard Hughes won possession on the twenty metre line he drilled a low shot to the Ballycastle net.
With the game deep in injury time you would have thought it was ending level, but there was one more play left and when the ball broke to Ciaran Clarke he slotted over the winner.
Former students Eoghan Campbell and Maeve Kelly were the chief guests at the Cross & Passion College Sports Breakfast awards in the school canteen on Friday. Campbell who captained Antrim to Joe McDonagh Cup success and Kelly, who was last season’s Intermediate Camogie Player of the Year, were joined by CPC Sports department staff (including Antrim hurling star Ciara Clarke) and school principal Mr McLean.
Head of the Sport Department Oran Kearney interviewed Maeve and Eoghan and ask them to share their memories of their time at the school, before introducing the teams who had collected silverware for the school during the past season.
First up to collect their trophies was Year 8 Soccer team who won the Coleraine & District Schools Cup, led by team captain Ollie McAvoy and team manager Cormac Dallas.
The Year 8 Camogie team won the Lucia Mee Memorial Tournament, a trophy named after a young lady who will always be close to the hearts of those at CPC, were next up to collect their awards, led by joint team captains Tegan Cassidy and Rose McMullan.
McNamee Cup winners, who beat St Pat’s Maghera in in extra time in the final, were led up by team captain Liam Smyth to receive the cup from Eoghan Campbell whiel the Under 14 ½ Camogie team, who beat St Killian’s in the final saw team captain Aiobhin Gillan receive the cup from Maeve Kelly.
The Gallaher Cup winning team, who beat St Killian’s in their final in Cushendun in late December saw team captain Oisin McCallin receive the cup while the Leonard Cup winning team.
Team captain Liam Glackin and the boys decided to have their own non uniform day to celebrate the occasion as the took possession of the silverware.
The Senior Camogie team, who beat St Louis Ballymena in a great final in Ballymena earlier in the season, continuing the school’s great record in the competition, had team captain Bríd Magill there to receive the trophy from former winner Maeve Kelly.
There were individual award winners honoured as well with Cathair Donnelly, Ben McGarry, Ben O’Kane, Darragh Kelly, Shanagh Heggarty and Janey McIntosh showing off their QUB Future All Star awards, while Christy McGarry got a special mention for this Ulster School Hurling All Star award, as indeed did Camogie All Star winners Orlagh Laverty, Fionnuala Kelly, Nuala Devlin and Cassie McArthur.
In Year 10 Ebha McAllister was honoured for her athletics success at the Ulsters and All Ireland competitions
Cushendall Ruairi Og won the National Feile Division 2 title when they beat all comers at the National finals at Kildalkey, Co Meath on Saturday. The Antrim champions produced a series of excellent display as they went unbeaten throughout the day, culminating in a brilliant final win over Oliver Plunkett’s of Westmeath by 1-7 to 1-6.
In their opening game of the day the Ruairis faced Maynooth from Kildare in what turned out to be a really tough battle. Points from Fintan McKillop and Oran McCambridge, on either side of a Fintan Bradley goal gave the Antrim champions a 1-2 to 0-4 half time lead.
A Thomas McLaughlin point put them two ahead early in the second half but Maynooth hit back with a goal and a point to retake the lead. However the Cushendall boys dug deep and two pointed frees by Fintan Bradley and one from Callagh Mooney put them a point ahead, before Mooney and Thomas McLaughlin sealed the win with points from play.
Game two in the group saw the Antrim champions have an easier passage as they beat Ballygalget of Down. The Ruairis proved too strong on the day for the boys from the Ards, leading by seven at half time they went on to run out winners by fifteen at the end. Shann McKeegan and Sean Paul McNaughton got their team’s goals while Fintan Bradley got 0-3, Fintan McKillop, Oran Mccambridge, Dairi Higgins, Cathair McCambridge and Callagh Mooney a point each.
Game 3 was a really tense affair with the boys from the Glens just edging home against Offaly champions Killcormac Killoughey. A strong irst half was to prove vital in the end as points from Fintan Bradley, Dairi Higgins, Oran McCambride and Nicholas McLaughlin, plus a goal from Thomas McLaughlin gave them a 1-4 to 0-3 lead at the break. The Offaly champions came back with two points after the break, but Oran McCambridge and Thomas McLaughlin cancelled those out. However a late goal from Kilcormac Killoughey left it a tense finish, but Cushendall showed great character to hold on to secure a semi-final spot.
The semi-final pitted the Antrim champions against their Derry counterparts Kevin Lynch’s Dungiven, and things did not look good when they trailed by 0-3 to 0-0 at half time. A goal from Nicholas McLaughlin early in the second half proved the perfect tonic, and though Dungiven came back with a point to go back ahead, Cushendall finished strongly with a point from Fintan McKillop and two from Fintan Bradley to seal a place in the final.
What a battle the final turned out to be against Westmeath champions Oliver Plunkett’s. Just like the semi-final the Antrim boys were under the cosh in the first half when facing the breeze, and they trailed at half time by 1-4 to 0-3, their points coming from Oran McCambridge, Fintan McKillop and Dairi Higgins. An Oran McCambridge goal early in the second half proved the boost the Ruairis needed and four points from Fintan Bradley, three from frees and one from play the Feile title was heading back to the Glens of Antrim
Last night they returned to Cushendall as heroes, along with the Camogie team, who suffered the heartbreak of defeat in the final. Another memorable day for the Ruairi Og club, and one that will remembered for long and many a day.
Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Premier Junior championship – Group One
Antrim 1-16 Armagh 1-18
Antrim Junior Camogs came up just short when they faced last years All Ireland finalists Armagh in the round robin stages of this years’ competition at Pearse Park, Dunloy on Saturday. The Saffrons went into this game needing just a point to secure their place in the knock out stages and for long periods in the second half it looked like they would not get near it. However a later rally, which brought a goal from top scorer Dervla Cosgrove, gave them renewed home. During injury time they searched for the score that could get them an unlikely draw, but Armagh held out for a deserved win to keep their unbeaten record intact.
Playing with the gale force wind behind them in the opening quarter the signs were not particularly promising for the home side as Armagh matched the home side, despite playing into the wind and the sides were deadlocked after 15 minutes. Antrim were begging to find their range though as the half went on and some excellent free taking from Dervla Cosgrove helped them open up a 0-12 to 0-5 lead at half time.
Most punters felt that a seven point lead would not be enough, given the strength of the wind, and when Armagh got a goal early in the new half through full forward Ciara Donnelly it was clear they wouldn’t take very long to close the gap. As the free scoring Armagh forwards sent their team four ahead going into the last ten minutes you feared this could be a big beating for the Saffron Cailíní, but the introduction of some fresh legs had an immediate affect and the got themselves back on the scoring charts again. On a couple of occasions closed the gap back three, but on each occasion Armagh were able to stretch the gap to four again, but when defender Sinead Cosgrove fired low to the net late in the game, there was just a point between the sides. However Armagh were able to hold their opponents at arms-length though injury time and actually added one more to their total to seal the win.
Despite the defeat Antrim are still in contention to make it to the knock out stages and all will depend on next Saturday’s clash with Limerick in Dunloy next Saturday
Antrim: Á Graham, M McGarry, E Kearns, E McShane, C Crawford, S Cosgrove 0-1, M McLarnon capt., C Kearney 0-1, Bríd Magill, C McNaughton 0-1, E Laverty 0-2 (1f), O Laverty, A McNeill 0-1, E Leech, D Cosgrove 1-9 (9fs).
Subs: T O’Neill for C Crawford (41), F Kelly 0-1 for O Laverty (43), N Devlin for E Leech (54).
Armagh: C Devlin, M Lenehan, N Woods, E O’Kane, G McCann capt., E Hayes, T Maguire, S McArdle capt., L Donnelly 0-2, J Curry 0-2, E Smyth, E McKee, K McComiskey, C Donnelly 1-10 (6fs), R Merry 0-3.
Subs: S Quinn for K Comiskey (23), B Murray 0-1 for E McKee (45).Referee: B Heaney (Meath)
It was a case of what might have been for Antrim Camogs when they faced All Ireland Champions Galway at Pearse Park, Dunloy on Saturday. In the end they were well beaten by a very good Galway side who, once they hit their stride, showed just why they are champions. However there was much about the Antrim performance that was encouraging and had they have taken the chances they created when facing the gale in the opening half then things would have been much tighter.
When facing the first half gale Antrim were right there in the fight during the first quarter and early points from Caitrin Dobbin and Roisin McCormick had them level after ten minutes. Galway stretched their lead to 0-6 to 0-2 before Antrim’s teenage midfielder Aine Magill soloed through from midfield, with three Galway defenders giving chase, and brilliantly split the posts. There were other chances at this stage as Caitrin Dobbin cut in along the endline and fired low for goal, only to see the ball bounce of the foot of Galway goalkeeper Sarah Healy and out to safety. Soon afterwards Roisin McCormick stepped inside here marker and shot hurriedly with Magill breaking clear on her right, two chances that could have made a big difference.
As the game entered the second quarter the Galway girls began to find a bit more rhythm in the play and they made a significant breakthrough as Siobhan McGrath finished to the net after a move by Antrim to work the ball out of defence as intercepted. The points began to flow for the visitors and they made good use of the gale force wind and by half time they had pulled eleven clear. To make matters worse for the Saffons a torrential rain shower, which started in first half injury time, saw the gale easy noticeably by the sides re-emerged for the second half.
The home sides hopes of making a fight of it in the second half never really happened as the slick moving champions started to pick off some great scores, while Antrim struggled to make any significant breakthrough. The Galway defence was now rock solid, and with substitute C Finnerty in brilliant form in the right corner Antrim were struggling to win any clean possession. However the Antrim girls kept balling away and with Caoimhe Conlon, performing heroics at centre back the chance began to appear. Roisin McCormick picked off two fine points but Galway always had an answer and Aoife Donahue grabbed her team’s second goal on the way to a convincing 17 point win.
Although well beaten Antrim can take quite a few positives from the game. Going into it everyone knew the girls in Saffrons were up against it, but they will have learned a lot from their experience against Kilkenny and Galway in the last two outings. Although they lost against the top two sides they are still in contention for a quarter final spot. To clinch that last eight place they will need to beat Limerick in their final group game next Saturday, back in Dunloy. The Shannonsiders will not be easily beat, even with home advantage, but this Antrim team have the ability to turn them over as seal a quarter finals spot in a quarter final in Croke Park in three weeks time.