McCann return a timely boost for Antrim

Allianz NFL Division 4

Antrim v Carlow

Glenavy 2-30pm

The return of Michael McCann to the Antrim panel should prove a timely boost as they face Carlow in round 4 of the NFL Division 4 in Glenavy this Sunday. Lenny Harbinson’s Saffrons have made a descent start to this year’s campaign and their promotion chances received a boost last Sunday when Sligo lost to Wicklow. Two weeks earlier Antrim travelled to Marcievicz Park and suffered a narrow defeat to the Connaught side but a win away to London in week 3 leaves them handily placed on 4 points from three starts.

Only Limerick to date have maximum points from their opening three games and Antrim are joined by Wicklow, Sligo and Wexford on 4 so things couldn’t be much tighter. Sunday’s visitors Carlow have just one win from three starts and appear to have suffered a hangover following relegation from division 3 the previous season but they certainly can’t be taken lightly.

Carlow defeated Antrim in their final game of the 2018 league campaign to gain promotion and frustrated the home side that day with their ultra-defensive approach but the Antrim team they will face on Sunday bears little resemblance to the one they met in 2018.

Gone from the side who lined out that day at Corrigan Park are Chris Kerr, Kevin O’Boyle, James Laverty, Mark Sweeney, Matt Fitzpatrick, Paddy McAleer, Ryan Murray, CJ McGourty, Michael McCarry and Sean McVeigh and Lenny Harbison and his backroom team have been forced into introducing a number of new players and have recalled a number of others to this year’s panel.

The return of Tomas McCann and Paddy Cunningham to the panel had the pundits talking, Cunningham last played for the county six years ago but it has proved a shrewd move for the Saffron management and the Lamh Dhearg man has looked like he has never been away.

Cunningham has top scored for his side and his free taking has been top drawer but to date Tomas McCann hasn’t figured, the Erin’s Own man is recovering from a minor operation but will hopefully be in line for a return soon.

The big news this week however has been the return of his brother Michael to the Antrim panel as Lenny Harbison attempts to add a bit more experience to what is by enlarge, an inexperienced panel. The older McCann will need no introduction to the Saffron supporters.

He has been prominent in the recent success of his club Cargin winning the last two Antrim championships and was a mainstay in the Antrim side for more than a decade before announcing his retirement a couple of years ago.

A less demanding training schedule has been cited as the reason for his return and whether he starts on Sunday or not his knowhow will be vital to Antrim in the league run in.

Antrim will go into Sunday’s game with confidence, determined to continue their recent rich vein of form but they may have to be patient to break down a Carlow side who can be dour and defensive and who come to Glenavy knowing that another defeat would probably end their promotion chances. Dermot McAleese will have done his chances of a place in the starting line-up no harm with a fine display away to London last day with the Casement’s man weighing in with three points in a man of the match performance.

At the time of writing the team hasn’t been announced but it is unlikely to show a lot of changes from the one that has performed well this season and I would expect them to keep their promotion hopes very much alive with another win on Sunday.

Arnie Clarke R.I.P.

St. Comgall’s GAC and the wider GAA community in Antrim are saddened by the tragic and sudden death of former player, Arnie Clarke. Former St. Comgall’s manager, Gerard McAuley said “Arnie was a tenacious battler in our mid-field for a number of years, a great trainer and all-round clubman.

Another spokesperson for Naomh Comgall said, “There has been great sadness following the death of a good friend” He never missed training and always loved a challenge both on and off the pitch, would back down to no-one from the day he got into the senior team” he said.

Arnie Clarke, aged 56 was on a visit home from France where he worked with Michelin. Mr Clarke relocated to France with a number of colleagues after the Ballymena factory closed and was very popular with the group who attended his Requiem Mass today in St. Comgall’s Parish Church.

Many tributes have been paid to the former St. Comgall’s player. One read “ Goodbye dear sweet friend we can’t believe you’re gone. Life in France won’t be the same without you. Rip Arnie Clarke, we will never forget you”

The Saffron Gael offers its sincere sympathy to his partner, father, mother, sons, daughter and brothers and the wider family circle.

Mary Queen of the Gael pray for him.

Sarsfields edge out Rossa in Falls Park thriller

South Antrim Dwyer Cup Minor Football quarter-final

Sarsfields 6-06-5-08 Rossa

From Kevin Herron at The Falls Park

Sarsfields and Rossa served up a thrilling game of Dwyer Cup football at the Falls Park on Sunday afternoon and it was the Stewartstown side that came out on top with a 6-06-5-08 victory over their near neighbours.

The worst of Storm Dennis was just passing as the game got underway in the Falls Park but a strong wind would still hamper a much anticipated encounter.

Rossa hit the front early-on through a Daire Murphy point but Sarsfields carved out the first real goal opportunity as Miceal Ferris fisted the ball through to Rian McShane whose shot was blocked away by Dylan Magee.

Joseph Mac an Fhaili levelled through a converted free and after Michael McDade had nudged Rossa back in front- Mac an Fhaili converted his second free of the afternoon to make it 0-02 apiece.

Owen May restored his sides lead for the third time- it didn’t last too long though as Sarsfields claimed the first goal of the game.

Rian McShane slipped the ball through into the path of Daire Doherty – who bustled his way through heavy pressure to steer the ball to the net and make it 1-02-0-03.

Michael McEnhill converted a free to reduce arrears but Sarsfields conjured up a second goal through Thomas Morgan after Michael Johnston’s knockdown.

Rossa battled back and found a lifeline as Daire Murphy gathered and popped the ball into Liam Carr- the corner-forward was put under pressure by Jonathan Rodgers but Carr composed himself and rifled to the net to make it 2-02-1-04.

Richie Patterson and Michael McDade traded points for their side’s but a quick-fire double would put Sarsfields firmly in the driving seat with little under ten minutes to the break.

Joseph Mac an Fhaili went for a point with a high shot that dropped and was fumbled by James Boyle and Joel Panikulangara scrambled the loose ball to the net.

Sarsfields high ball strategy paid off for a second time moments later as Boyle spilt a high ball from Richie Patterson and Daire Doherty profited to make it 4-03-1-05.

Owen May doubled his points tally in reply for Rossa and a fortuitous goal offered them a lifeline before the break.

Ben McCauley dropped in a high ball that Rodgers was uncomfortable with and Daire Murphy was in the right place at the right time to deflect the ball to the net – although the half-forward didn’t know too much about it, it was a welcome score for his side to put three-points in the game (4-03-2-06).

But Rossa would suffer another set-back on the stroke of half-time – Conall Duffy popped the ball to Joel Paninkulangara who fired it across the face of goal and Thomas Morgan palmed the ball to the net- unmarked.

Liam Carr converted a free before the whistle – though his side would have it all to do, trailing 5-03-2-07 at the interval.

Mac an Fhaili increased Sarsfields lead with a point sixty seconds after the restart- though Barra McCaffrey played a one-two with Owen May before steering the ball over the bar.

Daire Doherty again stretched sides lead but Rossa hit back with their third goal of the afternoon. Liam Carr turned from goal scorer to provider as he picked out Owen May who rifled low to the corner to give his side renewed hope (5-05-3-08).

The Shaws Road side’s cause was helped as Liam Mitchell and Daire Doherty were both black-carded and temporally removed from proceedings.

Rossa set about making use of their numerical advantage and it eventually paid off as a Charlie Cooley rifled low to the net after a scramble in the area to level the game with less than ten minutes remaining.

It looked as though Rossa had the momentum however Sarsfields had a golden opportunity to restore their advantage from the spot- Joel Panikulangara was hauled back and referee Paddy Tumelty signalled for a penalty.

Conall Duffy seized responsibility and sent the goalkeeper the wrong ways to give his side a 6-05-4-08 lead.

Undeterred, Rossa went in search of a further equaliser and with around three minutes remaining they got it- Eoin Trainor popped the ball into the path of Michael McDade who rode heavy pressure and applied the finish to draw the sides level once again.

Extra-time was on the cards but Liam Mitchell stepped up to the plate and atoned for his earlier black-card to steer the ball over the bar and nudge his side a point to the good.

It would prove to be the winning score as Sarsfields held out for victory to book a semi-final meeting with St Galls at the Falls Park on Sunday week.

Sarsfields: J Rodgers, C McDonnell, P Murray, M Johnston, C Duffy (1-00f), L Mitchell (0-01), R McShane, J Mac an Fhaili (0-03, 0-02f), M Ferris, R Patterson (0-01), E O’Cuinneagain, J Panikulangara (1-00), D Doherty (2-01), T Morgan (2-00), R Devlin. Subs: C Kennedy for T Morgan (49); N Altimas for R McShane (52); R McShane for R Devlin (58); T Morgan for J Panikulangara (63).

Rossa: J Boyle, B Heggarty, D Magee, C Mooney, O May (1-02), E Trainor, A McCallin, B McCauley, C Cooley (1-00), M McDaid (1-02), D Murphy (1-01), B McCaffrey (0-01), M McEnhill (0-01f), C O’Duffin, L Carr (1-01, 0-01f).

Referee: Paddy Tumelty

St Brigid’s beat Corpus Christi in the gale

South Antrim Dwyer Cup Quarter-final

St Brigids 2-06-0-04 Corpus Christi Gaels

From Kevin Herron at The Falls Park

St Brigids booked their place in next Sunday’s Dwyer Cup semi-final after defeating Corpus Christi Gaels 2-06-0-04 in this afternoon’s quarter-final clash at the Falls Park.

With Storm Dennis blowing straight down the pitch conditions were nigh on impossible for a free flowing attacking game and it took a while for the opening score to arrive through a converted free from Marcus Lynch.

Lynch would double his and St Brigids account from the same scenario and Toirealach Brolly gave his side a three-point lead after being slipped through by James Gorman.

Corpus Christi Gaels struggled to find any sort of rhythm in the opening half but hit back, Sean Og Prenter got his hand to a contested through-ball and CJ Sullivan let-fly with a shot that Declan Heery had to turn over the bar.

Brolly replied almost instantly though Corpus Christi again reduced the deficit through Jonathon McKenna – who showed a burst of speed and popped the ball over the bar to make it 0-04-0-02.

Just before the break the opening goal of the game arrived as Rory Moore unselfishly slipped the ball across the face of goal where Ronan McKeown was waiting unmarked and McKeown dispatched to the net to increase his side’s lead.

Things went from bad to worse for the west-Belfast side as Marcus Lynch added a second within minutes and they had a mountain to climb at the break- as St Brigids were 2-04-0-02 to the good.

The Gaels were very much up against it but their second-half display was commendable and they refused to throw-in the towel despite playing against the gale force conditions in the Falls Park and being temporally reduced to 14-men following Conrad McCurdy’s black-card.

For a long period it looked as though the second period would pass without a score- indeed it took 21 minutes for CJ Sullivan to eventually raise a point through a truly excellent wind assisted score.

St Brigids replied through a Donal Harrison free – and despite Caoimhin Heaney again producing a fine point for Corpus Christi- Marcus Lynch responded as the half ended in a stalemate and McKeown and Lynch’s goals proved the difference in the end as the Musgrave side advance to meet Lamh Dhearg in next Sunday’s semi-final.

St Brigids: D Herry, L Finnegan, J McCarney, C Maguire, D Hanna, D Harrison (0-01f), N Finnegan, T Brolly (0-02), R Boyle, N Murtagh, M Lynch (1-03, 0-02f), J Gorman, O McDonnell, R Moore, R McKeown (1-00).

Corpus Christi Gaels: O Deevy-Persson, E Roberts, A McLaughlin, G Power, G Sloan, C Adams, C McCurdy, CJ Sullivan (0-02), C Heaney (0-01), G McKernan, C Hand, D Walsh, C McShane, S Og Prenter, J McKenna (0-01).

Referee: Paul Hughes

Lá Le Phádraig – Naomh Padraig secure historic treble

Sunday’s North Antrim Indoor Hurling League Under 8 finals day at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre proved to be a great day for Naomh Padraig, the boys from north Antrim taking three of the six honours on offer, including the top prize of all, the Section 1 title. The day had been going good for the club at this stage anyway with the Divisions 3 and 5 titles already in the bag, but adding the top honours by beating a great club like Cushendall in the Section 1 final really made is special.

The winning Naomh Padraig teams
Team captain Cillian Bellew receives the Section One Shield from Martin Magee

In that final Killian Cassidy, son of former Derry footballer Joe Cassidy, grabbed the opening goal. Ruairi Og hit back to level the game with a goal from Oliver Mooney and the sides were deadlocked at half time. The score that settled this great contest came midway through the second half when John Og Darragh, a young man with more than a little Cushendall blood in his veins, fired in the winner to spark scenes of great celebration among the Naomh Padraig fans.

The signs were good for the club when they won the Section 5 final earlier in the day beating Eoghan Rua Coleraine by 5 goals to nil, Ruairi McQuillan, son of Cushendun legend Rory, and Shane McClelland sharing the goals as they led by 3-0 at the break. The two boys then went on to add a goal apiece in the second half to seal a convincing 5-0 win.

In the Section 3 decider it was much tougher against an excellent Omagh St Enda’s side who pushed the North Antrim boys to the limit, Naomh Padraig getting over the line by 1 goal to nil.

The day started with a win over Ballycastle in the Section 6 final, a really hard fought game that saw the young McQuillan’s edge a 2-1 win, both goals coming from Eoin McCloskey. In the Section 4 decider Loughgiel Shamrocks took the honours with a 6 -1 win over Omagh St Enda’s, four of the goals coming from Daniel Christie.

Section 4 winners Loughgiel

The Section 2 final saw Ballycastle take the honours with a big win over Loughgiel. Conor Bailey and Dara McShane were the scoring heroes for the boys in black and amber.