Saffron victory sets up David and Goliath battle for Ulster title

Antrim’s 0-13 to 1-07 victory over Cavan at Clones tonight has set up an Ulster Senior Football Championship Final pairing that few- if any- would have predicted only a matter of weeks ago.
Antrim produced a superb attacking performance and solid defending to see off the Breffni men, though a number of jittery moments ensured that the Saffrons’ clear dominance was not fully reflected on the scoreboard and ensured the game went down to the wire. The victory secures Antrim their first visit to an Ulster decider since 1970, though their opponents, Tyrone, are somewhat more used to the occasion.

Antrim’s woeful Championship record in recent years has concealed real progress within the county which pointed to a steady improvement in Antrim football. The success of St. Galls at club level, the promising performance of a number of Antrim players at Sigerson level and the return of an Antrim school to Macrory Cup competition all point to Antrim football on the rise. Coupled with an impressive unbeaten run to gain promotion from Division 4 in the National League and the arrival of a clearly inspiring Manager in Liam Bradley, and it would appear that the pieces are finally beginning to come together for Championship football in the county.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    RTE didnt say what the crowd was any ideas?

    My money on Tyrone for Sam.

    p.s. Although still a big ROG fan, today, he did resemble B. Falty with the bandaged head after the moose fell on him.

  • John

    16,000ish I read somewhere (I think the GAA website).

    Great result for Antrim, although they should have won by a lot more.

  • Mark McGregor

    Un-bloody-believable. I’ve always wondered what an Ulster final was like, only three weeks until I find out. Great day and the Ulster Board continue to do a excellent job on the free tickets for under 16s.

    Big well done to the BBC box for providing laugh out loud moment of the match. I’ve no idea what was going on in their box but waving at Antrim flag at the victorious supporters was a classic mayhem inducing moment.

  • Just back in the house (stopped in Armagh for dinner) and am still buzzing! Cracking result. Stuff the begrudgers, we are in the final on merit and played some lovely attacking football and were aggressive in the tackle (but have some seriously sloppy marking to work on).

  • Mark McGregor

    Was brilliant. Every neutral I met was routing for us. Only negative was the level we were outnumbered by Cavan supporters. We need the 16th man for the final. Tyrone will be a different match but Antrim are now playing like a team that believes it can win for the first time since…since before I was born.

    btw: well done to Down for a great warm up and win in the Minors and the kids for mini-tournament at 1/2 time.

    Up the SAFFS!

  • Bemused

    Yawn – one set of bog-ballers look the same as any other to me.

  • Its amazing the difference confidence can make to a team. Under pressure towards the end of the match the lads were very disciplined and showed a lot of bottle. The best team won and the spirit of the supporters was fantastic (including Mark Sidebottom!)

  • Mark – where I was sitting we outnumbered Cavan fans at least 3:2 and the hill behind us was a forest of yellow flags being waved by screaming maniacs with Belfast accents.

    Bemused – one wanker sounds much like another to me as well.

  • Ulick

    As an Armagh man exiled in Belfast I have to say Antrim deserve their day out in the sun. Drumcree Sunday in Clones has been a happy hunting ground for us over the past decade and I’ve nothing but best wishes for Antrim and especially all those Glen Rd men who’ve tagged along with us since 2000. I was behind the goals that afternoon Tohill saved the point and at the replay in Celtic park the week after and all I can say is that this breakthrough has been a long time coming.

    Aontroim Abu!!

  • Ulick

    Forgot to say, Antrim are only one win away from an AI quarter final in Croker regardless of what happens against Tyrone. Who would have thought?

  • Mark McGregor


    Did you give an Alliance hum when the Catholic scouts were playing ‘A nation once again’? That’s more ammo for the troll but who cares.

  • Ulick

    “Did you give an Alliance hum when the Catholic scouts were playing ‘A nation once again’?”

    Why wouldn’t he – didn’t the BBC World Service tell us it was the worlds most popular song a few years back 😉

  • Mayoman

    Great stuff by the Glensmen. This year could be interesting, with Kerry looking poor (so far)and Ulster throwing up a few surprises. Could be the year for someone like Mayo to make a mark! (odds on an Antrim Mayo final? I could buy back the 6 counties if that came in 😉 )

  • iluvni

    What steps has Antrim GAA taken to involve and encourage articipation from other sections of the community?
    Is a wider pool of players the background to their success this year?
    Are there players of other faiths in the team?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    it would be great to see an invite by the GAA to Ulster Rugby accepted to play at Casement Park – hopefully any new stadium will be shared by GAA and Rugby.

  • Chris Donnelly


    1. I know that there are a number of Integrated schools which have GAA teams and, personally speaking, I know of a couple of clubs in my own area (S Antrim) which have cross-community membership at all levels. Beyond that, I don’t know as I’ve no strong connections within the GAA structures in other areas.

    Further developments would, obviously, be welcome and beneficial, but a large obstacle will remain the sectarian response of many to the organisation- just last year a predominantly protestant/ State school refused to facilitate pupils in the school wanting GAA coaches to provide training within the school.

    Another exciting development within Antrim is the plans for a Centre of Excellence, to be sited in Antrim town.

    The response from loyalists in the town has not been encouraging; the infamous Tesco affair, in which loyalist and unionist political figures succeeded in hounding out young club members participating in a sponsored bag packing exercise has been followed just this week with a statement carried in the local Antrim Guardian from loyalists claiming they have erected flags at the proposed site of the GAA Centre (as well as Tesco and the catholic church and school..) to oppose ‘nationalists.’ Add to that the incendiary comments of a then DUP councillor (now belonging with another ‘clan’) in labelling the proposal a terrorist training ground when the proposal came to Council.

    2. Antrim has a much larger pool of potential players than virtually any other county in Ireland, never mind Ulster, due to its population. Indeed, there are more senior clubs in West Belfast than the whole of Fermanagh, so quantity was never the issue.

    3. I know not the religious background of the Antrim players, though I’d hazard a guess that most-if not all- would be from a catholic background. Sad, but mirror reflection of an average local hockey/ cricket/ rugby team. Soccer’s international status and popularity has ensured it alone transcends our sporting divide, but you’ll hardly need reminding of problems within our local soccer game….

    That said, I’m sure children of all faiths in Methody will be cheering on their teacher- and rugby coach- who so finely represented the Saffrons on the field yesterday. Who knows? Maybe the school will go one step further and encourage Aodhan Gallagher to assemble a Methody team to participate in inter-schools GAA competitions?

    In this regard, PJ O’Grady (St Patrick’s Bearnageeha) has already pioneered a cross-community hurling link up with Ashfield Boys’ school, even inviting then First Minister Ian Paisley to his school and presenting him with a hurling stick to boot.

    All good, no?

  • Sad, but mirror reflection of an average local hockey/ cricket/ rugby team.

    It would no longer be the mirror image of a local rugby team and it is even less so with every passing year. I’m glad to see attracting Prods is part of the Belfast Rising plan, but Ulster GAA is about 25 years behind Ulster Rugby in this regard.

    Great stuff by the Glensmen.

    Not too many Glensmen on that side yesterday – mostly Belfast with a smattering from the Bann Valley. The Glens is hurley country.

  • sinless

    Thread was going well with congrats to Antrim all round till the usual nonsense about the UVF being excluded was raised. It is a great achievement for Antrim, regardless of what Harryville’s Free Presbyterians, Ballymena’s Bahais or Ballymurphy’s Mormons may think.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Chris Donnelly,

    If there is to be joint stadium – and the the GAA had signed up to that under the Bobby Bowl/Maze plan – any idea if there is a possibility of sharing Casement Park with Rugby?

    Apart from the obvious public relations win for the GAA it would seem co-operation is the way forward.

  • Dewi

    Might just have to change the name Sammy…

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    If they could agree on a prisoner-of-war site as a venue casement park should be simples.

    I paid £30 to Mick – including the £10 I owed you.
    Is that us quits? You reckon Rog as Basil Flaty with the bandage on his head – probably Earls/Darcy will have to start. Check out

    p.s. Didnt Winston Churchill make a pro Home Rule speech in casement park?

  • Dewi

    Quits Sammy. Nice site. Dunno about Churchill – I’ll do some digging.

    (4 Welsh speaking backs took part yesterday – long time since that happened)

  • sinless

    Sammy: MOne of the purposes of the GAA is to get kids playing GAA games, not garrison games. Although the IRFU is a better mob than the IFA/FAI, they should come to GAA grounds on the GAA’s terms. Casement (A Protestant) would be as offensive to Protestant riff raff as the late Archbishop Croke, who had a lot to sday about hte English and their effeminate games.

    Not only is GAA the games of the native aboriginals but it is also more firmly embedded. The GAA don’t go a begging the way the IRFU and especially the FAI/IFA vermin do.

  • Chris Donnelly

    That was Celtic Park (now Park Centre.)

    A name change wouldn’t even be considered, and nor should it be, lest we need revisit the names of a helluva lot of streets, public buildings, bridges, universities and even towns….

    Sammy Morse
    I’d agree that a lot more catholic schools- and people from a nationalist background- are taking up rugby in recent years (and I’m personally very glad to see it) but I don’t know to what extent the Ulster rugby authorities have been responsible for that. It would appear to me to have been more a development from the community concerned than a product of any structured outreach programme.

    Whatever the reasons, it is good news, and hopefully Ulster rugby will give us all more reasons to cheer in the coming years.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    what’s your opinion on having rugger in CP?

    ta, Celtic park is the place – thats why I couldnt find anything on google.


    Adam Jones star man – looks like he was deliberately taken out because they couldnt cope in the scrum. Will be in Thailand next saturday will presumably have to rely on Aussie telly for coverage of 3rd test.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Itwas Sammy…

    Absolutely no difficulty with it; I also firmly supported the shared stadium proposal for the Long Kesh/ Maze site, which would’ve seen rugby, soccer and gaelic games sharing facilities.

  • the joxer

    Well Done, Antrim-Should be a great occasion in 3 weeks. My heart says the Saffrons, my head says back the Red Hands minus 10 points.

  • iluvni


    Thanks for the reply. Small tentative steps so far then.
    I’ve no time for the flag erectors whatsoever. None. They offer nothing.
    Not sure though I am convinced the Antrim GAA has done anything much to open up outside their own comfort zone. You know exactly where I could go with this argument. I wont.

    Suffice to say, surely its time they put in place (or if they receive public money, were told to put in place) a programme to ensure players from other faiths made it through to senior teams.
    You cant keep blaming ‘the bigots’ outside of the GAA for that failure forever.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    the Maze/BobbyBowl/Long Kesh project is surely one that could attract private money from thousands of small private investors – the emigres would love a chance to own a bit of history. I wonder if this been considered but required DUP approval. If a campaign was launched to get the money and it started pouring in I’m not sure it could be held up. I’m standing by with my cheque book.

  • Guest

    “You cant keep blaming ‘the bigots’ outside of the GAA for that failure forever”
    The failure to recruit those who do not wish to be recruited?
    What are ye on about?
    shouldn’t the soccer people make an effort to recruit the “hand” people and the “knee” people too.

  • I’d agree that a lot more catholic schools- and people from a nationalist background- are taking up rugby in recent years (and I’m personally very glad to see it) but I don’t know to what extent the Ulster rugby authorities have been responsible for that.

    As someone who played rugby because of it, I know there was quite a deliberate policy of encouraging rugby in ‘non-traditional’ schools – i.e. Catholic schools and state secondaries.

    The main means was supporting clubs in expanding their underage programmes and marketing it aggressively at Catholic and state secondary schools. Until then, most clubs started with the Under 20 age group and basically recruited players from kids leaving the local Protestant grammar school at that point. Malone, where I played, was particularly aggressive in pushing it in the Belfast area, Dungannon and City of Derry are two other clubs that spring to mind.

    Many Catholic schools wanted nothing to do with a game that teachers and governors were dubious about, and many clubs had members who were suspicious about a clatter of taigs arriving on the premises every Saturday. But enough people were interested, and now a significant number of amateur players in Ulster are Catholic, and so are a goodly proportion of the people in Ravenhill on any given Friday night; we’ve had people from Catholic schools break into the Ulster development squad and it won’t be long before they’re breaking in to the First XV.

    It was neither a long nor an easy process, but it has produced real dividends and there is much that the Ulster Board can learn from the Ulster Branch.

    As I said, I’m glad the Ulster Board has made broadening participation an element of “Belfast Rising”; there is good work being done by the people you mentioned and by others around the Belfast area – Bredagh GAC is the club that really springs to mind in terms of reaching out across the community. But I’d rather GAA people looked at what they could learn from what the Ulster Branch of the IRFA has done rather than displaying the begrudgery you did.

    Anyway, enough of the serious shit, I’m getting back to celebrating. UP THE SAFFS!

  • Chris Donnelly

    Sammy M

    Keep yer knickers on! Fair points throughout, though somewhat out of line on the ‘begrudgery’ remark. I’ve personally not come across the Ulster Branch outreach of which you speak (and clearly benefitted from) and I’ve been knocking about the education sector for quite some time now.

    Indeed, I’ve even experienced the impressive outreach training provided by ‘Golf Ireland,’ but nowt from the rugby authorities, though I concede it’s probably more likely they’ll have targeted the secondary/ grammar sectors (though again, I posed this to two teachers from catholic secondaries in Belfast this afternoon and neither had any experience.)

    But fair dues to the Ulster Branch. Maybe another run in the Heineken Cup IS on the cards soon….

  • Mark McGregor

    Stick your outreach and crap up your arses.

    Antrim are in the Ulster final.

    And I’m for enjoying it from now until the 19th.

    Enjoying every single moment.

    I’ll leave others to waste the experience trying to convince the usual Slugger trolls that this isn’t an inter-IRA football thing

  • guest

    “Stick your outreach and crap up your arses.

    Antrim are in the Ulster final.

    And I’m for enjoying it from now until the 19th.

    Enjoying every single moment.

    I’ll leave others to waste the experience trying to convince the usual Slugger trolls that this isn’t an inter-IRA football thing

    Fair play Mark. and congrats.

  • Harry

    Congrats to Antrim, great win for the Saffrons and a great display of passion from the Antrim crowd after the game. A credit to the county and all involved.

  • Gilbert-Paul Jeannon

    Living in Tyrone but supporting Antrim has not been easy but now I can wear the colours with pride.

  • dave

    It is entirely beyond me – as a football, cricket and rugby loving Prod – why anyone would come onto a thread about what was clearly a great sporting success for an underdog team and start making the same old political points, however genuinely felt, again and again.

    I am well aware of the issues, perceived and real, that surround the GAA and their relationship with the section of the community they don’t tradiotionally integrate with – but how that is the first thought that pops into someone’s head when they see a scoreline from a sports match is senseless.

  • sinless

    Dave: Good post. I remember hearing about Ireland beating Pakistan in cricket when I was on a diving expediton in the South China Sea. I thought the Brits and Rhodesians telling me this were pulling my leg. i am still not sure it is a great hoax but credit etc in anything where it is due.

    English friends scoff in a good natured way about Ireland winning the grand slam for the first time since Noah set sail. That makes it all the sweeter.

    Ulster GAA football (more the 6 cos really) have made a big breakthrough of late. That should be applauded.

    I remember when Eamonn Couhghlan was pipped into fourth at the Montreal Olympics. Some Dublin layabout told Coughlin he cost him a lot of money in a bet. Coughlin felt like dropping him.

  • The Original Sam Maguire

    Well done to the Antrim boys on here, I look forward to seeing youse at the Ulster Final. It was a well earned victory and in fairness it should have been more.

    The craic in Clones should be good anyway.

  • brendan,belfast

    What a weekend. Antrim qualify for their first Ulster final in my living memory – then going to see Bruce at Hyde Park.

  • RepublicanStones

    Well done to the Saffrons…for such a young team as well. Doubtful if they’ll have what it takes to cause a major upset on the 19th. My head says Tyrone, but my heart says…..Tyrone as well 😉

    ‘going to see Bruce at Hyde Park.’

    Was at Punchestown last night and was mesmerised as Angus played a 20 min solo…I can die a happy man now !

  • Dewi
  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Grizzly can write.

  • Limerickman

    Congratulations to Antrim, apart from Tyrone the rest of the country will be behind ye. The best of luck.