ST Patrick’s Day 2020 wasn’t the normal festival of national celebration at home or abroad. By mid-March, the Covid-19 outbreak resulted in events being cancelled across the world as the first in what seems like a never-ending series of lockdowns began.
ANTRIM hurling captain Conor McCann believes that, should the GAA organise Division One of the Allianz Hurling League on a regional basis, it could be to the advantage of the Joe McDonagh Cup champions.
The Ulster Minor Club Tournament at St Paul’s was another major sporting event that fell by the wayside in 2020 but Brian Coyle looks back with fondness on a competition that has captured the imagination
JOE McDonagh success has not been the sole preserve of Antrim’s senior hurlers recently as it has been announced the Naomh Éanna CLG, Glengormley received the Gold Medal Award from Fondúireacht Sheosaimh Mhic Dhonncha - a funding scheme to support clubs with the promotion and development of the Irish language which was established by the GAA and Glór na nGael in Joe’s memory.
Electric Ireland Ulster MFC quarter-finalAntrim 0-8 Monaghan 2-17 DEFENDING champions Monaghan coasted into the semi-final of the Ulster Minor Football Championship as they swept aside Antrim at a sunny and chilly Corrigan Park on Sunday. The Farneymen were in complete command throughout this game and were full value for the win as they led throughout with a late burst of scores putting a gloss on their day's work. Stephen Mooney top-scored with 1-8 in an excellent performance, but there were excellent shifts put in throughout the field for the visitors. For Antrim, it was a tough afternoon, but it must be taken into consideration that they had not played together since an Ulster League game back in March. This game was due to have been played in mid-October, one week after Monaghan overcame Cavan in the preliminary round, but restrictions on all non-elite sport meant it was put back to this weekend and the long delay Cleary didn't do the Saffrons any favours as they started slowly and found themselves chasing the game for the most part. Despite playing into the wind in the opening half, Monaghan were quicker to settle and dominated the early possession, probing and trying to unlock the hosts' defence. They were to hit the front on four minutes as midfielder Tiarnan O'Rourke slung over an excellent point and this was followed by the first converted free of the day from Mooney. Antrim were making little headway in attack but did get off the mark on nine minutes thanks to Ryan McQuillan who curled over superbly from his left boot. However, their moments going forward were few and far between as another pair of Mooney frees helped Monaghan into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead at the water break. They took a little while to add to their tally but Dan McCahey firsted over on 26 minutes and straight after they would take a firm grip on proceedings as Michael Hamill broke through at pace and slipped to James Slevin who thumped low to the net. This goal seemed to spark Antrim to life for the remainder of the half as Sean Duffin kicked a free and added another from play in the space of 60 seconds, but the half would end with Mooney and McQuillan swapping frees as Monaghan took a 1-6 to 0-4 lead into the half.
Electric Ireland Ulster MFC quarter-finalAntrim v Monaghan (Corrigan Park, Sunday, 1pm) ANTRIM minors will finally get the chance to lock horns with defending provincial champions Monaghan after the Ulster Minor Championship got the green light to proceed. Corrigan Park will host Sunday’s rematch between the sides after the Farney County survived an almighty scare at the Whiterock Road venue in last year’s Championship.The sides were set to clash back in October before a second Covid-19 lockdown forced the postponement of all ‘non-elite’ sport. Although the Ulster Council were adamant that the minor competition was only on hold, Antrim manager Paddy Kelly said he feared the worst. “I never thought we’d get playing and I didn’t think they’d get this competition back up and running again - especially with it being so close to Christmas,” said Kelly. “The staging of next year’s league and Championships will have to be factored in too, but fair play to the GAA for getting it going again. It is strange to be out on the training pitch in December, but we are glad to be back. “It will be a very quick turnaround for the guys who will also be in next year’s minors. “The minor management for next year can’t even hold trails up they will be under a bit of pressure.” Back in April 2019, Monaghan travelled to Corrigan Park fresh off the back of a preliminary round win over Down having reached the All-Ireland Minor final in 2018. However, gale-force winds made a mockery of the game with both teams struggling to make any headway. A late goal from midfielder Joe McNally left Antrim trailing by just a single point (1-2 to 0-6) after Monaghan had been reduced to 13 players, but the hosts couldn’t muster a late equaliser. The Saffrons exited the Championship a week later when they suffered a five-point defeat to Armagh in the Athletic Grounds. Only a handful of players from the 2019 squad remain, but they aren’t lacking in confidence heading into Sunday’s quarter-final. When the game was set for October, Monaghan looked to have a distinct advantage over the Saffrons as they came through a preliminary round thriller against rivals Cavan. Some nine weeks later, Kelly feels that advantage has diminished and says his side must believe an upset is possible this weekend.