Something stirring in the land of the Saffron as sporting feast awaits

St. Gall’s 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 team’s 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. Malachy’s taking on La Salle in the soccer final, BRA facing Ballymena Academy in the rugby decider and St Colman’s (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 Gall’s 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, there’s 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!

  • RepublicanStones

    Go on the CBS !!!!

  • Michaelhenry

    come on st.galls,for belfast,for antrim,for ireland,we are all suppurting you today

  • Marlaghman

    Come on the wee sheep shaggers from the braid

  • Chris Donnelly

    As an interesting aside: when the BBC cameras switch from their coverage of the gaelic final to the rugby final later on today, the ghost of Roger Casement will surely be smiling as the cameras switch from a stadium named after him to one in which his alma mater (Ballymena Academy) will be playing.

  • nick

    As a former pupil of St Malachy College, I hope De La Salle stuff them in the soccer.

  • jtwo

    Casement will, of course, have very little interest in a lot of strapping young men running around in shorts.

  • Paddy

    Good posts all (with the possible but predictable exception of 6)

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Theres an odd social aspect to all this.
    First of all two Catholic schools contesting the Soccer Final. Unheard of in the 1960s when soccer was banned at many Catholic schools.
    In a strange way this feeds into the paranoia of unionists….if any of those kids are any good some at least will be heading south rather than to Windsor Park.
    Does this mirror the American experience where for generations could not play at the highest level. Say basketball at the highest level and “reduced” to exhibition games such as Harlem Globe Trotters.
    Now basketball and (American) football are dominated by black sportsmen (as well as boxing and athletics) and baseball by black and hispanic sportsmen……theres a whole PhD to be written on the affect on the American male and on the integration of black and other cultures.

    The Antrim GAA thing is interesting too.
    Aside from Antrim being traditionally mediocre in both hurling and football, there is a geographic imbalance.
    The Glens clubs dont get on with the Belfast clubs. Actually Glens clubs dont get on with other Glens clubs and inter-Belfast rivalry has also on occasions been over the top.
    Frankly theres a political dimension. Some clubs and players have been traditionally more SDLP orientated. Others more SF orientated.
    Have they finally buried that hatchet (for once not in each other) ENOUGH to pull together as a county.
    Can it be theres a first generation of lads now at QUB or UUJ who have finally shaken off the kinda slightly “republican label” that attached to Belfast GAA in a way that did not necessarily apply in other counties.
    Or is Republicanism, nationalism and broader Irish culture out of the ghetto that was more pronounced in Belfast than anywhere else in North.

    And the St Patricks Day GAA final is a comapratively new Catholic middle class tradition. A direct response to the Protestant middle class Rugby Final.

    Today would be interesting for Feorge Orwell who argued sport was war by other means. Certainly today seems a battle in the “culture” war.

  • brendan

    Chris, for the sake of accuracy, the appointment with Tyrone is set for May 23rd (not June). And I think one more win will seal promotion, if not mathmatically then all but. I am hoping it will come this Sunday in Tullamore.

    FJH – you too are wrong about the nature of any divide between city and country, in any case I think that was always overplayed and it certainly was never an SDLP / SF issue. North Antrim plays hurling, the south west football and the city aspires to both in some clubs. Simple as that.

  • Kevsterino

    Fitzjameshorse,
    A minor correction regarding baseball. So few African-Americans have bought into baseball in the last few years that the major leagues have initiated a special promotion program to renew their interest in the sport.

    As for the affect of black sportsmen on the American male, the structure of your sentence doesn’t help me figure out what it is you’re getting at.