By Michael McMullan
On the way up
THREE one-point victories in Division Four defined Enda McGinley’s first season as Antrim senior football manager, setting up a crunch semi-final with Waterford that saw them promoted to the third tier ahead of the new season.
In the scorching heat at Fraher Field, Antrim held the Deise scoreless for 27 minutes and it was a late Odhran Eastwood goal that sealed the deal.
It was a dramatic winning point from Ryan Murray that saw Antrim edge past Mickey Harte’s Louth in the first game of the group stages, winning a the type of game they’d have often lost.
Paddy Cunningham retired at end of the season, but his point won the game against Sligo was crucial and a win over Leitrim followed.
In the championship, Antrim were just two points in arrears of Armagh at half-time before being hit with three second-half goals in a 13-point defeat that was a cruel conclusion to a season which offered much progress.
The rise and the fall
IT was a Jekyll and Hyde season from the hurlers, who started the season in flying form.
On a memorable May afternoon in Corrigan Park, a 1-11 haul from the irresistible Ciaran Clarke saw the Saffrons record a famous victory over Munster giants Clare in the league opener.
After a 1-28 to 3-15 defeat at the hands of the Cats in Nowlan Park and a defeat against the Dubs, Antrim bounced back. A draw with Wexford was backed up with a win over Laois to secure their Division 1B status.
After winning the Joe McDonagh Cup 12 months earlier, their promotion to the top level was followed up by a team that looked to be going in the right direction.
But after a championship defeat against Dublin, the wheels came off the wagon in a shock play-off game with Laois that saw Antrim relegated from the Liam McCarthy Cup. So they must build again.
Double glory for camogs
ANTRIM camogs played second fiddle to Down in the National League and Ulster finals, but ended up the season as All-Ireland champions.
A win over Down in the league group stages in Portglenone demonstrated the levels they could reach and when the All-Ireland intermediate championship began Antrim were free from their Ulster rivals who had moved into the senior ranks.
A win over Kilkenny in Dunloy was followed by a defeat to Cork leaving Antrim needing to beat Kildare to book a quarter-final with Kerry who they accounted for easily.
Aine Magill (1-4) and Roisín McCormick (1-5) helped Antrim to victory over a fancied Galway side in the semi-final.
Waiting in Croke Park were Kilkenny, but Antrim weren’t to be denied and goals from Maeve Kelly and Caitrín Dobbin ensured it was a Saffron Sunday.
The minor camogs – with Aine Magill to the fore – backed up the success with a second All-Ireland.
Jim McKernan and Paul McKillen stepped down from the management team. Elaine Dowds stayed on to lead a new backroom team comprising of Brian Kearney, Joe Passmore and Shane Elliott.
Creggan end the famine
BY the time Sam Maguire kicked the ball to the empty Aghagallon net, Creggan were well on their way to ending a 67-year wait for an Antrim title.
It was a novel final, with history set to be made either way. It was Creggan’s semi-final win over neighbours Cargin that morphed their promise into self-belief. This, combined with ramping up their preparations, meant there was no stopping the Kickham’s from getting their hands on the McNamee Cup.
It capped off a season that saw senior, intermediate and junior titles all coming to the BT41 postcode – to three neighbouring clubs.
Manager Michael O’Kane returned to Tír na nÓg to work his magic and seal a league and championship double. The Whitehill men were also a whisker from this weekend’s Ulster final, going down to a 67th minute Moortown winner.
St Comgall’s capped off the local winning theme when they saw off Rasharkin, after penalties, to secure
the junior title.
Dunloy stand tallest again
CONSISTENCY won through in the senior hurling championship with Dunloy clinching a third successive title and a fourth in five seasons.
Six goals from Seaan Elliott, combined with the scoring return from Keelan Molloy and Conal Cunning saw Gregory O’Kane’s side win climb to the top of the tree once again.
A Christy McNaughton free earned Cushendall a draw in the opening game of the group stages, but Dunloy didn’t look back. Comfortable wins over Naomh Éanna and St John’s booked a semi-final rematch with the Johnnies which Dunloy won to set up a meeting with Rossa in the final.
Goals from Cunning, Elliott and Chrissy McMahon saw Dunloy romp to victory.
That’s where it ended, as they went down to Sleacht Néill in the Ulster semi-final after a promising start.
What was more concerning for the Antrim hurling scene was an absence of a team from the county in the Ulster senior, intermediate and junior club finals, as well as the Mageean Cup final – all in the same calendar year,