St. Galls of Belfast will once again do battle at Croke Park today in a bid to become the All-Ireland club champions for gaelic football (coverage live on RTE.) The Milltown teams ascent to the status of one of the premier club teams in Ulster and Ireland in recent years was the first visible sign that the footballing fortunes of the Saffron county were finally taking a turn for the better after generations of mediocrity- including going almost two decades without a single victory in the Ulster Senior football Championship.
Today is also the special date for school finals in soccer, rugby and gaelic football, with St. Malachys taking on La Salle in the soccer final, BRA facing Ballymena Academy in the rugby decider and St Colmans (Newry) taking on Omagh CBS in the gaelic football encounter. Good luck to all involved.
2009 was a memorable year for Antrim as the county finally made its way out of the basement division in the National League. More significantly, of course, the team went on to contest the Ulster Final for the first time since 1970, though the occasion would provide sobering evidence that the gap between Antrim and the top tier counties- in this case, Tyrone- remained extremely wide.
All of which has meant that the undefeated start to the Division 3 campaign to date has been somewhat surprising, and perhaps indicative of a new found resolve and self belief absent from Antrim teams for a generation. The manner of the Antrim victories to date- including trouncing fellow northern counties, Cavan and Fermanagh- are all the more impressive when it is considered that the numerous Antrim panellists from the St Galls club have yet to feature for the county in the National League campaign due to their club commitments (and this includes the troubled but talented CJ McGourty, who has made amends with the Bainisteoir and will be expected to feature once again in the Antrim panel.)
Victories over at least two of the three remaining league opponents from Leinster counties should be enough to see Antrim promoted to Division Two for 2011, where much stiffer opposition awaits. But before then, theres the small matter of a June appointment with the Red Hand county, which will provide the clearest yardstick yet of the real progress achieved by the Saffrons.
In the meantime, good luck to the Gallsmen today!