Two GAA teams are celebrating their all-Ireland success in Gaelic football and hurling. agendaNi reports on Crossmaglen Rangers’ and Loughgiel Shamrocks’ historic wins.
Crossmaglen Rangers won the All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship, beating Westmeath team Garrycastle 2-19 to 1-07 during a replay on 21 March. It was the Armagh team’s sixth time lifting the Andy Merrigan Cup and they are the first team in history to win the club championship back-to-back on two occasions.
Man of the match Francis Hanratty scored two early goals while veteran player Oisin McConville, who scored six points and received his sixth all-Ireland medal with the team, was given a standing ovation as he left the pitch.
Captain Stephen Kernan dedicated the win to the memory of former captain James Hughes, who died in a shooting in Dundalk in December 2011.
Manager Tony McEntee said that his team had the game “in the bag by half-time.” He said that the team had succeeded in reaching the “absolute intensity of football that we can play at.”
SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley paid tribute to “the wonderful exploits of Crossmaglen Rangers and the impact they have had on not only the lives of people from south Armagh but also the role they have played further afield.”
He said that the “passion and commitment” of the club’s players, trainers and volunteers is a “superb record of this famous club.”
The County Antrim team beat its Offaly rivals Coolderry by 4-13 to 0-17 in Croke Park on 17 March. Liam Watson was Loughgiel’s main scorer, securing three goals and seven points.
Manager PJ O’Mullan said: “We have a new generation of hurlers and we’re fit to come and get the job done and emulate the heroes of 1983 so we’re moving on to a new part in our club and we’ll enjoy this one.” His team’s performance was “magic” and there was “a massive effort from everyone.”
Reflecting on walking up the steps of Croke Park to receive an all Ireland medal, goal keeper Damien Quinn said: “As an Ulster man you might think would you never get up there.” He added: “It is a surreal moment [to be] up there lifting the biggest prize in club hurling, for the parish.”
DUP Mayor of Ballymoney Ian Stevenson attended the semi-final and the final and has found out that his late grandfather, Sam O’Neill, played for Loughgiel Shamrocks in the 1920s.
“It is good to see a team from the Ballymoney borough doing so well in sport and yet another example of the high level of sporting achievement in the borough and in Northern Ireland as a whole,” he commented.