Dunloy minors preparing for Ulster

By Michael McMullan

THE Dunloy minor story began with the fundamentals in the local parish hall.

Within a year the club’s new state of the art indoor academy was open and it’s been full steam ahead for a club that dominated the senior scene in Antrim in recent seasons.

Paddy Martin and Mickey McClements were involved in those early days. Now they are part of an extensive management team that includes Sean McElhatton and Ciaran Richmond.

Antrim u-20 manager Paudie Shivers lends his hand and Kevin Martin answered the call for some goalkeeping work.

“They’ve been reared in the academy ever since,” McClements said of the current minor group who have had a “mixed bag” in terms of success in their career.

After winning the U-12 Championship, the Covid years condensed the fixture programme. There was also a strong Glenariffe team to contend with along the way who “set the bar high” for the rest.

“It meant we have a bit more work to do to make up that ground,” McClements said.

“It ebbed and flowed between the teams, they were good matches between us. We lost a couple of the games by heavy margins.”

The gap has now been closed. There were the late developers who find their place among the growth spurts and polish their stick work.

Watching the club senior grace Croke Park helps stoke the interest. The young guns would have been in the village on those magical autumn nights when the Volunteer Cup glistened from the back of the Creagh lorry. The honking of horns and the emerald green and gold flare smoke helps too.

“When boys see that happening and that it is a realistic aspiration for them, so their effort at training, their application is bang on,” said McClements, himself a championship winner in his playing days.

It helps with the support structure. The schools, parents and the community.

“Most importantly, the players have bought into it to really want to be part of that in the future,” said the former winning captain.

With the minor championship in the bag, there was the long wait since mid-October since Paudie Martin’s free-taking display ended Loughgiel’s drive for five in a 0-17 to 2-9 Dunloy win.

They now face Éire Óg, Carrickmore in the Ulster semi-final at Ballinascreen later this month after the Tyrone side retained the shield last weekend.

Dunloy released their Mageean Cup players to their schools and let those trialling for county u-17 and u-20 teams at it.

“You have to assess people’s workload so you are not overburdening people,” said McClements of a busy schedule.

“It has meant that numbers at our training has been down and we have been working with small groups.

“It gave us a chance to hone in on the coaching of boys not involved in Mageean and with the county so hopefully we will see the benefit of it.”

Of their five attempts to win the Ulster minor title, Dunloy have only won it once. McClements labels it a “tough” tournament to win.

“Our record in the competition is such that we will give every opponent the respect that they deserve,” he said, revealing he had eyes watching Carrickmore’s two games in the shield.

Aside from that, Dunloy’s focus is now on Dunloy. There needs to be an improvement since the Antrim Championship.

“We will be working very hard at what we can do to be better than we were the last day,” said McClements.

“We are looking forward to it, we have been training hard and we will give it a right rattle.

“We had the semi-final date in our heads and haven’t looked beyond it. We had a fair idea it would be Carrickmore who came through and they’ve a good record in the competition.”

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW