The race for the Ulster Senior Football Club Championship is hotting up and Shaun Casey takes a look at the last ten winners..
GLEN’S breakthrough has been phenomenal over the past few years, from claiming their first ever county title in Derry to being All-Ireland contenders in a short space of time. Malachy O’Rourke’s men are currently the team to beat in Ulster having captured the Seamus McFerran Cup last season before reaching the All-Ireland decider. With some of the best players in the country such as Conor Glass, the Watty Graham’s men could dominate for some time.
THE longevity of Kilcoo is thoroughly impressive as the Magpies have been a top force in the province since reaching the showpiece twice in 2012 and 2016, although losing on both occasions to Crossmaglen and Sleacht Néill before finally getting over the line in 2019. They went on to lose to Corofin in the All-Ireland final after extra time that year before claiming two-in-a-row in 2021 and finally claiming the All-Ireland crown in the most dramatic of fashions.
GIVEN the names on the team sheet when Gaoth Dobhair claimed the Ulster crown back in 2018, it could have been suggested that they were going to be around for a long time. This didn’t work out like that however, but the Donegal men were full value for their victory five years ago. County stars such as the McGee brothers, Eamon and Neil along with Kevin Cassidy were key for Gaoth Dobhair.
THEY couldn’t get over the line on the national stage, but Sleacht Néill were the best team in Ulster for a number of years. They claimed the Seamus McFerran Cup three times in four seasons between 2014-2017, with Crossmaglen breaking their stranglehold in 2015. The club’s achievement at that time, between the footballers, hurlers and camogs, is unprecedented and we’ll probably not see such a dominant club ever again in Ulster.
WHILE the Rangers have flattered to deceive on the provincial scene in recent years, they once completely dominated the Ulster Championship. They won 11 Ulster titles between 1996-2015 and went on to win the All-Ireland Championship six times during that period as well. Their five-point Ulster final victory over Scotstown, after extra time in 2015, was one of the best deciders in the last few seasons as Cross were crowned worthy champions.
THE Shamrocks won two Ulster Championship titles 12-years apart and competed in another two finals in that time, losing to Crossmaglen on both occasions in 2006 and 2008. They beat Mayobridge in 2001 and in their most recent provincial triumph, the Derry men overcame a Michael Murphy inspired Glenswilly by four-points in 2013, with Michael McIver slotting home the all-important goal. Ballinderry were beaten in the All-Ireland semi-final by eventual All-Ireland champions St Vincent’s.
ST Gall’s conquered the Antrim championship and carried that momentum into the Ulster and All-Ireland series during the noughties, claiming two provincial titles and one All-Ireland crown. The Saffron men beat Bellaghy in the 2005 Ulster final before convincingly overcoming the Loup in 2009 on their way to picking up their first and only All-Ireland title. They had a host of star names that represented Antrim along with a couple of others from various different counties as well.
THE first of Malachy O’Rourke’s magic on the provincial stage, the current Glen manager tasted Ulster Championship success with Derry side Loup in 2003. It had been 67 years since the Loup were crowned champions of Derry and O’Rourke ended that famine before bringing them all the way to an Ulster title in 2003, where they saw off St Gall’s in the final by three points, 0-11 to 1-5. They lost to eventual All-Ireland champions Caltra in the semi-finals.
ERRIGAL Ciaran remain the one and only team from the Red Hand County to have mastered the Ulster Championship, and they did so twice in 1993 and 2002. Their most recent successful voyage was just one year before their most famous face Peter Canavan led his county to the Sam Maguire Cup. It also came after an Ulster final defeat to Bellaghy in 2000. In 2002, Errigal Ciaran saw off Enniskillen Gaels in a low scoring final.
DERRY’S most successful club, Bellaghy, sit joint-third in the Ulster championship roll of honour with Scotstown and just behind Crossmaglen and Burren having claimed four provincial titles. The Derry men earned Ulster success in 1968, 1971, 1994 and most recently 2000. After defeat to Crossmaglen in 1996 and 1998, Bellaghy bounced back to claim Ulster honours in 2000.