Gymco Antrim Junior Football Championship final
O'Donovan Rossa GAC launched its Healthy Club Action Plan at Rossa Park on Saturday afternoon.
ANTRIM'S hurlers and footballers now have a bit of certainty as their fixtures for the delayed inter-county season were finally revealed yesterday.
Defeat in the 2019 decider “isn’t an issue” insists Kickhams’ boss, Ross Carr
Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship Final
Antrim Intermediate Camogie Championship final replayTír na nÓg 4-11 O'Donovan Rossa 3-6
Antrim Junior Football Championship, semi-finalSt Comgall's 1-12 Pearse's 0-8
DJ Morgan’s side will require a perfect performance if they are to upset the odds against the defending champions
Gymco Antrim Junior Football Championship, semi-finalPearse’s v St Comgall’s (Ballymena, Saturday, 1pm) WITH the dispute surrounding the final placings in Group Two of the Antrim Junior Football Championship finally put to bed, the second of the semi-finals will take place this Saturday in Ballymena when Pearse’s face St Comgall’s. This weekend ought to have been the final, but a challenge from O’Donnell’s to the Ulster Council regarding the final placings in Group Two saw the second of the last four clashes postponed from its original date of two weeks ago. The West Belfast club felt they ought to have finished second due to St Comgall’s game against Mitchel’s seeing the Antrim town club lend the Poleglass outfit players to make up the 15, therefore rendering it a walkover victory and wiping out their huge scoring difference that would have seen them drop to third. However, Antrim’s County Board deemed there was no mechanism for O’Donnell’s to return and after some boardroom battles, the action will return to the field with Conor Henry’s men bidding to set-up a final meeting with North Belfast rivals, Ardoyne. The delay has been out of the control of Pearse’s who have been left frustrated by the wait for their semi-final, but with the fixture finally confirmed at the weekend, Henry said there has been an extra spring in the step of his players this week. “When we got the fixtures at the weekend, it made a huge difference to our training last night,” he confirmed. “It can always be difficult when you don’t have that certainty, but the lads have been absolutely brilliant and kept at it the whole way through. Despite all the distractions, they kept themselves focussed and we are all just looking forward to Saturday.” Retaining focus has been a requirement for all clubs since March given the shutdown of sport, but all somehow managed to keep the show on the road with players doing individual training that left them in good shape upon the return to action. Pearse’s were no different and Henry reports that his players returned in such firm that it has been a huge competition for starting slots in each game. “I couldn’t speak highly enough of the lads,” he added. “It’s been the same for every club during lockdown as it threw all of our plans out the window. They (players) were doing the Zoom quizzes, doing the 5ks and 10ks, posting their results on the group, had online gym classes and all that helped keep us all together. “When we came back to training, it was absolutely brilliant and it’s actually made it hard for us to pick a team because we have had so many boys busting a gut this year. “It’s a fantastic place to be in and a great problem to have as everyone has been so brilliant this year.” It was only natural that there would be a little rust when play did return, but after a few games, players began to get back into the swing of things and after a few iffy performances from Pearse’s in their early group games, they settled to ensure they got the points required to finish top of Group One despite a surprise loss to St Agnes’. “We didn’t perform brilliantly in the group games at the start and that probably did us more good than anything as it gave us the kick up the backside we needed,” said Henry. “It gave us a reality check and the lads used all of that to refocus them as we went out in the first two games and turned things around.” It has been a long wait for championship success at the New Lodge club. They won a Senior Championship in 1968 before dropping down and claiming Junior three years later while in 1974 they took Intermediate honours, but that has been their lot and they will be keen to set the record straight this year. The prospect of a final between two North Belfast clubs is a huge prize and would deliver another shot in the arm to Gaelic Games in a part of Belfast that seems on the rise once again. “It would be huge,” agreed the Pearse’s manager. “You just have to look at what St Enda’s have done over the past number of years for Gaelic Games in the north of the city. “Ardoyne have also been going well and their U16s have got some good results, so we want to join the party and show what we can do. For years, it was always about West Belfast, but we want to show the north is thriving too.” To get there’s they must pass what Henry admits will be a “big test” against St Comgall’s this weekend. The Antrim side have been there or thereabouts in the Junior Championship over the past decade so will represent a step-up for this Pearse’s side. However, games between the pair have been traditionally tight and it is hard to envisage any different this Saturday. Henry is a veteran of some of those battles so knows what to expect but has high hopes his team will prevail. “St Comgall’s and ourselves have had some really tight, competitive games over the years,” he recalls. “We have always been neck-and-neck with each other. “My last Championship game for Pearse’s was. close defeat to St Comgall’s and that wasn’t yesterday, so we’ve always been about the same level. They are a good, strong, physical team and have some cracking forwards, so we know it’s going to be a hell of a test for us.”
Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship finalErin's Own, Cargin v Kickham's, Creggan (Portglenone, Sunday, 2.30pm, live on Antrim Facebook page) TWO years on from a final all only those in green and white will look back with any fondness, Cargin and Creggan return to the county decider in Portglenone this Sunday. In 2018, the Erin's Own men edged a turgid 0-5 to 0-4 affair that had all the hallmarks of as game these neighbours simply didn't want to lose, so the hope is for a more open affair when they meet for the Padraig McNamee Cup on Sunday. Damien Cassidy's Cargin are going for the club's first three-in-a-row, whilst Kickham's bid to claim top honours for the first time since 1954 and the Loughshore club's third overall. With so much resting on the outcome on top of their fierce rivalry, there will undoubtedly be nerves on the day with both sides hugely motivated to prevail, but who will have the extra edge? Cargin have been boosted by the red cards shown to talisman Michael McCann and defender Marty Kane rescinded in midweek, meaning the pair are available to play and their presence will make a huge difference in this game. Both veterans of Cargin's four county titles in five years, with McCann also a member of the 2006-winning team, they will add to the experienced crop who remain key to the Toome outfit. Younger brother Tomás, Kevin O'Boyle, James Laverty, Justin Crozier and John Carron are just some of those names who have been there and done it, but it would be wrong to suggest Cargin is an aging team with fresh faces including Pat Shivers, Ciaran Bradley, Jamie and Ronan Gribbin plus McCann's 17 year-old nephew Sean O'Neill who have all made a huge impact. "We have been lucky in that we've been in transition for two or three years, maybe more, and we're still able to win championships as we do it," McCann said. "We are fortunate that we've young lads who have been able to step straight into senior level from minor and contribute at a high level straight away. "Credit to Damien for having the ability to bring those players through to be able to performright away, so we are in a good place."
“I said after we won the third U21 title that the next step had to be to compete in the Down Senior Championship. I didn’t think we’d maybe get to the final as quickly, but now we are in the final, let’s hope we can push on and actually win it.”
FOLLOWING one of the best Antrim Club Championships in many years, county manager Daren Gleeson says the door is open for new players to join his squad as they get ready to resume the inter-county season next month. The Saffrons are due to face Kerry in the Division 2A final on the weekend of October 17/18 with promotion back into the top flight at stake, while the Joe McDonagh Cup campaign is due to being a week later. It seems a lifetime ago when Gleeson’s charges were getting set to take on the Kingdom at Croke Park before lockdown measures forced the game to be postponed on the Thursday before, so it has been a long wait for Antrim’s players to get their opportunity to take to the field for what is their biggest game to date having went through their previous fixtures unbeaten. It is fair to say that no member of the panel did themselves a disservice throughout a gripping club campaign at all levels, but with a tight schedule ahead and players involved in other squads, Gleeson says the door is not closed to players who have shone over the past two months. “Like most inter-county mangers, you are looking at it that this season is going to run into next so you will be looking to have depth to the squad,” said the Tipperary native after Sunday’s Senior final in Ballycastle. “There have been a few lads have put their hand up, but as I said from the start, the panel is open-ended and it will be that way throughout the competitions. “If you have a comfort zone, people will sit on it. We said from the start of the year and the players were told that it’s open-ended, so we might bring in a couple. “Some of our panel is playing in an U20 Championship when we are playing in the League final, so we will have to look for that bit of depth.” There have been some injuries over the course of the past seven weeks, most notably a dislocated elbow sustained by Domnhall Nugent for St John’s in their extra-time defeat to Loughgiel in the semi-final. However, Gleeson accepts such knocks are par for the course and with a number of players still involved in football action this week, he accepts it will be a few weeks before his squad is fully back together and will add some new faces if required. “We have four or five big injuries coming back in from the club championship, but that’s part of it - you could get those injuries in training,” he stressed. “We have a couple of the Dunloy guys playing football this weekend so we won’t have access to them for two weeks. Conor McCann is the captain of the team and he’s playing (football) for Creggan so you have to be fair and not just wheel Conor back in on the Tuesday after then county final. You are going to have to give them that little break. “The window is narrow so if lads aren’t ready to come back in, you will have to look elsewhere.” Gleeson has been impressed with what he’s seen from the club games and not just at senior level that has grabbed the headlines outside the county. Tír na nÓg’s Intermediate success highlighted the quality in a club that had been without that title before, whilst St Paul’s made up for last year’s Junior final loss at the weekend with county star Stephen Rooney pivotal to that win. “The five or six main senior teams, we seem to focus on them a lot, but there is talent throughout,” Gleeson added. “There is talent throughout the Intermediate grade, the two teams who were knocked out in the (Senior) group stages have players there too. “There was a county member (Rooney) playing in the Junior final there yesterday so I think there is depth in Antrim and we have to cast the net wide. It just can’t be a narrow look at the Loughgiels, Cushendalls, Dunloys, Rossa and St John’s in the city - there are lots of players everywhere.” There had been some doubt whether the inter-county season would be scrapped and such scouting for 2020 would be in vain, but on Saturday the GAA confirmed the inter-county season will take place having been given assurances of financial help from the Irish government. With county teams now permitted to resume training, Gleeson said he is happy to gather his players back together who are available at present to refamiliarise them with the system that had served them so well at the beginning of the year and make and hopefully pick up where they left off when they face Kerry next month. “It’s been uncertain, so it’s great to get the confirmation that it’s going to go ahead,” he agreed. “For the players, wondering what their winter is going to look like, as-well-as the management and backroom team, we can drive ahead with the plans we would have laid out. “Every club has their own way of going about their business so we just have to get the lads back into the Antrim mode of what we’re trying to shape. Looking at the club games, all the county players have been really good and I’ve been happy with them throughout the levels. “There are guys playing with Junior clubs, Intermediate clubs and Senior clubs who have all seemed to be going well. I’m just really looking forward to getting back in as a group to restart what we had going.”
Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship semi-final (AET)Carryduff 2-13 Ballyholland 1-15 CARRYDUFF will contest the Down Senior Football Championship final following a remarkable semi-final win over Ballyholland at Páirc Esler on Sunday.
Casement Social Club Antrim Junior Hurling Championship final
Antrim Intermediate Camogie Championship finalO'Donovan Rossa 0-7 Tír na nÓg 0-7