28 Oct 2015


History was made at Owenbeg on Sunday when Eoghan Rua landed the Ulster Junior Hurling championship. Not only was it a first club hurling title for Derry but in the process they became the first Oak Leaf club to win Ulster titles in football, hurling and camogie.

Ulster Junior Champions 2015

What makes the achievement even more notable is that they are not picking from the traditional GAA stronghold. Surfing, golfing and wearing funky Bermuda shorts are more the order of the day in the Coleraine-Portstewart-Portrush 'triangle' area. In saying that most people know this is not the totally accurate picture, when you scratch the surface there is a vibrant GAA culture which is growing all the time.

On a recent visit to their new clubhouse the impressive photo collages up around the foyer are a celebration of all their recent successes, the work of current U14 manager Gerry McAleese. Their new pitch gives them a focal point, somewhere to call home. After Sunday's Ulster Final win over Ballela Gerry will have to get back to the photography and his creative side.

 Another important and fundamental factor was the simple fact that Sean McGoldrick relocated from St Teresa's on the Glen Road to the north coast. They always say that clubs are about family but in this case Grianne, Méabh, Sean Leo, Liam, Barry, Colm and Ciaran McGoldrick are more than a decent foundation to build on. Rumour has it they once tried to enter their own team in the Kilmacud Sevens, it has yet to be confirmed though!

Their Ulster football success came in the form of an Intermediate title in 2006 when they saw off Armagh's Ballymacnab in the final. This was a stepping stone and four years later their strong running game and ability to score goals landed them the coveted John McLaughlin Cup. The leader and manager of this fantastic achievement was Sean McGoldrick, assisted and Sean McLaughlin, a man with Foreglen roots where his brother Gregory is a significant cog.

 Their all-conquering camogie team have two All-Ireland Intermediate club titles and an Ulster senior championship under their belt. Central to these wins was the significant talent of Grianne and Méabh McGoldrick. It has often been said they'd get on many a hurling team. So far in our story that's success across two codes accounted for. For a further insight, we now catchup with the man who masterminded the camogie success, Joe Passmore.

 From chatting to some of the camogie players, they hailed Passmore as the key to their success. His likeable demeanour twinned with a real focus translated their raw talent into winning teams. He now lets us into the latest chapter in the Eoghan Rua story – the Ulster hurling title and another possible trip to Croke Park.

 "Of starting team on Sunday ten of them would be on Senior football panel, eight would have started in county final against Slaughtneil. A few are solely hurlers. We have a small panel of senior players stretched thinly across two codes," highlights Passmore.

 When Lavey were dominant they had their hurling teams competing the in Antrim leagues. Slaughtneil, where current senior hurling manager Padraig O'Mainain resides, are doing the same. It is bearing fruit and O'Mainain's youngsters will benefit from that. Passmore indicated that Eoghan Rua are going down the same route.

 "This year we took U14s and minors into Antrim because we can play competitively at a suitable grade without getting hammered week in week out." So that is the focus of building the next generation, but what will this Ulster title do for the club? Passmore explains.

"It is a shot in the arm to hurling in the club and to the club community in general. Our numbers aren't huge to put it mildly. We have 6 or 7 men currently coaching hurling covering the entire club. A good number of these players are the rump of the first group of homegrown hurlers from the club since we started."

 "We've been in three Ulster finals in hurling over the last eleven years or so and it's great for Padraig our manager to finally get us over the line. We would hope with a bit of success that it helps the bigger picture in terms of numbers."

 So what next for hurling. How will this win help with the short term development of the game? "Hopefully the wee bit of success will help raise the profile and have a knock on effect in terms of bringing on younger players and encouraging a few lads to start hurling or to come back to it as has been the case. Our hurlers are every bit as good as others in the county, there's just not as many of them. So this win means a lot."

 "We regularly get hammered off the pitch at underage by other clubs who only see winning as important and don't see any development agenda. But we keep fielding, our youngsters keep coming back for more and we keep it going. We're marching to a different beat than other clubs - It's a non-traditional GAA area, some people seem to hold that against us and make a few derogatory comments but if they walked a mile in our shoes they might have a deeper understanding of the work we do and the challenges of other sports."

 Success breeds success and this is the same the world over. Passmore reveals that Eoghan Rua now have a new fan after Sunday, the PR machine is working already.

"We've seen in the past from our camogie team doing well that successes like this will have a bounce effect. So we'll hope to build on this. It's fantastic for the players and we certainly enjoyed the night - even Jimeoin got in on the celebrations."

 The next stage of the competition is a little cloudy, but the chance of a return to Croker is on the horizon. "We play the British junior champions possibly Fullen Gaels who have a strong record at this level. We don't know the details. In the meantime Padraig will prepare the lads as best he can. The football is pretty much over so they can get some stick work done for the next stage of the journey wherever that takes the club."

 So there you have it. On the north coast, beneath the surface there is a GAA community bursting to get out. Pat Cassidy and Padraig O'Mainain have the rural roots from the Slaughtneil area. Sean McGoldrick has brought his GAA input from the Glen Road in Belfast. Former Tyrone player Niall McSorley is part of it, so too is the McLaughlin clann from Foreglen and the Mullans from Glenullin. It's the nature of Irish people, they flock from rural to urban in search of work and to put down their roots.

One thing is not yet known – what exactly is Jimeoin's GAA pedigree?. Maybe if O'Mainain, Cassidy and the McGoldrick's work their magic – Jimeoin will be sitting in Croker witnessing another chapter in the Eoghan Rua story. That's for the new year, now it's time to wind down for Christmas.

21 Oct 2015

Junior Title for 'Vale

Premier Electrics Junior Championship Final


Faughanvale 2-9 Drum 1-5

A ruthless and rampant start from Faughanvale was the difference between the sides in this replay. They hit Drum with everything they had and were 2-4 to 0-0 ahead after twelve minutes. It was very hard to see anything other than a 'Vale win.

It was looking like it as going to be a landslide victory but then again Drum never ever throw in the towel. Not ever. It was always going be an uphill battle but for the rest of the game it was nip and tuck. For Drum it was simply too late as Faughanvale were not going to leave the Joe Brolly Cup behind them this time.

Player/manager and leader Joe Gray won a free in the first play of the game and tapped it over himself to settle them. It was a very definite signal of intent. A counter attacking move involving the influential duo Aaron Cassidy and Eoin McElhinney saw Conor O'Hara add a second point.

Faughanvale's counter attacking game was effective but they mixed it up with some long balls into their inside line. Drum will point to a disputed first goal querying a square ball. The 'Vale spent time during the week perfecting their long ball game and it paid dividends when Conor O'Hara fisted a long delivery to the net. It rocked Drum and gave Faughanvale a perfect platform to settle into the game.

If there was query over the first goal the second one was a different story, a bullet to the roof of the net from Eunan Murray after a terrific team move involving a crossfield ball.

Three points from Rory O'Reilly kept Drum in touch and by half time the score was 2-4 to 0-3. During the first half Drum had their chances but they failed to capitalise on them and a well organised 'Vale defence ensured they didn't concede any goal chances.

Early in the second half it was tit for tat, Rory O'Reilly (2) for Drum with Joe Gray and a terrific Aaron Cassidy point ensuring Faughanvale were still holding Drum at arm's length.

Then the game changed momentarily with a high ball launched into the Faughanvale square bouncing around 'volleyball style' for a few seconds before Conor O'Kane fisted to the net. It was just what the game needed, twenty minutes left and the deficit reduced to four.

Drum couldn't capitalise on it and Faughanvale halted their moment with a monster free from Joe Gray. For the rest of the game Drum tried the direct route to goal but had no success.

Faughanvale soaked up the pressure and built from the back. Their final score summed up their game plan, Aaron Cassidy attacking from deep, working it to Eunan Murray who tagged on another point and that was enough to kill the game.

Both teams deserve credit for the intensity and honesty they brought to the game. Drum may regret not getting the result on the drawn game and the slow start this time.

Over the season Faughanvale have been the most consistent and had their sights firmly on Junior glory and getting back to the intermediate ranks. They succeeded in both and now face Tyrone Champions Brackaville in the Ulster series.

Faughanvale: Darryl Moore, Declan McGuinness, Michael Sweeney, Gordon Fahey, Jordan Curran, Steven King, Aaron Cassidy (0-1), Odhran McKinney, Michael McLaughlin, Eoin McElhinney, Joe Gray (0-3, two frees), Martin McGuinness, Kevin Martin (0-2, one free), Conor O’Hara (1-1), Eunan Murray (1-2).

Subs: Ryan King for Conor O’Hara, Sean Bradley for Kevin Martin, Oisin Quinn for Michael McLaughlin, Simon Green for Odhran McKinney, Martin Sweeney for Declan McGuinness. 

Drum: Cahair O’Kane, Liam Millar, Alex Moore, Niall Ferris, Damian Brolly, Shaun McGlade, Niall Burke, Conor O’Kane (1-0), James McCartney, Conor O’Reilly, Donal Brolly, Corey O’Reilly, Niall Farren, Ryan O’Kane, Rory O’Reilly (0-5 four frees).

Subs: Marc McLaughlin for Ryan O’Kane, Ryan O’Hara for Shaun McGlade, Shane Millar for Conor O’Kane, Dean Mulhern for Alex Moore.

Referee: Anthony Campbell (Magherafelt)


On the pitch after the game the Faughanvale players mixed with family and supporters for the customary photos with the cup. We got the thoughts of a very proud chairman Eamon King.

"It's unreal, it means everything to us. Everyone talked that third division was meaningless, that wasn't meaningless out there. We were relegated last year and to come through to win the league and championship is great and now we are hopefully going to go on and win Ulster," said King.

"At the start of the year our management set three goals, to win the league, to win the championship and to win Ulster. I hope in my heart of hearts that it will gel us together with all the support we have. As a club we hope this success will bring in the young boys and we will build. We're not saying we'll set the world alight in intermediate but our goal is to finish mid table next year," King added.

King also mentioned paid tribute to the improvement of the team. "Our boys as you seen yourself got out of the blocks quicker and built a massive team but sat back and played in bits and pieces. Our fitness was a big factor and our defenders were marking that bit better today although our boys are never that far away in defence. We haven’t quite clicked yet but it’s coming."

Full back Michael Sweeney also commented on the terrific start. "The last day a lot of boys were nervous, this club haven't been in many finals maybe bar the minors last year and Drum were well up for it. Today we were more used to it and knew we had a job to do and just had to go out and do it"

"The early goals helped, we have not had one in a while, we got a few in the league but in championship they are a bit harder to come by. Then Drum had their period with a few scores and chances. You're never going to rule a game all the way through and Drum was never going to lie down."

Looking ahead to Sweeney was just taking one game at a time. "We just had to get this game out of the way, we'll think about Ulster next week and just enjoy tonight. I never even heard of Brackaville before and probably they have probably never heard about us."

On the prospects of playing with Derry, Sweeney is firmly focusses on the club. "There have been trials the past few weeks when our finals were on, but they understand that the club is the focus now so we'll see what way that shapes up."

Team captain Steven King highlighted the main focus this season. "Our main aim this year was intermediate football and to get back up to intermediate. Now that we are in Ulster we'll give it a good run. We'll celebrate this one tonight and worry about Ulster after that."

When asked about what made the difference for the replay, King pointed out their secret. "We were fired up for today and concentrated on getting a good start. Goals win games and we worked a lot on the long ball and putting them under pressure."

14 Oct 2015


Fr Collins and John McLaughlin Cups

The Slaughtneil Treble 
When the founder members of Slaughtneil GAC met for the first time in 1953, little did they know the animal they were about to create.  From humble beginnings all those years ago, Slaughtneil has now established itself at the GAA’s top table.  

Over sixty years later, the club is thriving and everyone involved is living the dream.  At the start of each season every GAA team across the nation aspires to win a championship; in Slaughtneil the same focus applies.  The difference this year was that all three senior teams achieved those goals.  It wasn’t always like this. 

In mid-September in Owenbeg, Christopher McKaigue was the recipient of the Fr. Collins Cup, clinching three-in-a-row.  McKaigue and his colleagues are enjoying every second of it.  Current hurling manager Mickey McShane describes the current crop as a “once in a lifetime group”, but before that, Slaughtneil endured many barren years with very little success.   

That didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the many men who played during that era, many returning to coach the players that now backbone the current team.  This tradition carries on with current and former players currently involved in coaching the next generation, passing on the message they got from their coaches.  There are countless others like them. 

Sunday week ago in Banagher, camogie captain Louise Dougan held aloft another cup.  Slaughtneil were county champions for a second time.  The name on the cup was also significant, that of Martin Mulholland - a terrific servant of the club.  I’m sure he was a proud man looking down on this beloved club basking in glory.   

It wasn’t always like this for the camogs either, twelve months earlier they walked up the steps to the stage in Slaughtneil Hall empty handed.  They ran into an Eoghan Rua team at the peak of their powers and looked on as the men went on a provincial crusade.  They knew they would be back, there was unfinished business. 

On a personal level, captain Louise Dougan had to endure time away from the game with a knee injury.  The rehab was all worthwhile as her team proudly walked through the crowd and up the steps to the stage in Slaughtneil Hall.  Persistence always pays off. 

As the Slaughtneil fans departed Banagher and headed for Celtic Park, the chat in all the cars would have been about the treble and word would have filtered through to the footballers that it was now up to them to complete the historic feat.   

The football final started off very low key, but Mickey Moran and Sean McGoldrick are probably two of the most composed managers around so it’s no surprise their charges display these traits as well.  Sé McGuigan’s goal sparked the game into life, putting Slaughtneil in control and they were supposed to push on.  The opposite happened and Coleraine then took the game to the champions.   

During the barren years on the hurling pitch, the Emmets were living in the shadows of Lavey and Kevin Lynch’s, often ending up on the wrong side of some heavy defeats.  In the ‘big ball’ game, the ten year wait from 2004 to 2014 was a litany of one point defeats and hard luck stories.  Slaughtneil made a habit of losing tight games. 

With the clock ticking towards full time, Coleraine were putting the squeeze on but Slaughtneil held firm and got across the line.  It was now official, the treble was complete.   The footballers now possess confidence, composure and they play right to the whistle.  They don’t push the panic button and have now got the knack of winning tight games. 

So following on from Chrissy McKaigue and Louise Dougan, it was the turn of Francis McEldowney to ‘get up them stairs’ and receive the cup; John McLaughlin was staying put for another season.  

At the homecoming and with all three county senior trophies on the stage in Slaughtneil Hall, chairman Sean McGuigan addressed the crowd.  He mentioned the men of 1953 and questioned if they ever dreamt of days like this.  The people who ran the club in the interim years never would have envisaged success like it either. John Joe Kearney referred to those who have pulled on the maroon and white over the years and never experienced success.  

From 1953 until 2015, what has changed? There doesn’t seem to be any specific secret, but a combination of different aspects. 

During the week we caught up with a few of the Slaughtneil people to get their comments on the success.  One source commented about now having a "lifetime of looking back and smiling" and quite simply the word “equality - all codes, boys and girls”.

Current hurling selector Dermot Doherty commented on what it means to the club.  “It means everything to the people who worked unselfishly for 20 years with only sporadic success until recently when it has all come together.”

Former player, secretary and current development officer Jimmy McMullan also gave his take on the recent successes.

“It’s an outstanding historic achievement accompanied by a great buzz and euphoria which has re-energised our club and people following on from the dizzy heights achieved last year”, McMullan outlined.

Many people have asked how did the recent success come to fruition.  McMullan proudly added, “This didn't happen overnight. It is testament to many years of dedication, hard work and commitment from everyone at the club; committee, players, coaches, backroom teams, supporters and all others that were involved in any way, big or small. One club, three codes”.

When you drive into Emmet Park, the impressive facilities are there to be seen, a hugely important ingredient into team preparation and something that so many people have invested time and energy into.  

Every night of the week the grounds are full of youngsters at all ages in all codes.  The mentors and coaches of these children are another huge factor, nurturing their skills.  Camogie manager Dominic McKinley paid tribute to this group of people for the club’s current success.  

The amount of events that go on in the Slaughtneil community, many away from the field of play.  Events like fundraising draws, big breakfasts, Scor, traditional music and more recently the cycling fever that hit Emmet Park this year. 

The Barcelona soccer team have a motto “Més que un club - More than a club”.  Barcelona has more pubs, chapels and post offices than Slaughtneil.  They also have a more illustrious roll of honour, but the parallels are much the same. 

Between 1953 and 2015, Slaughtneil went from being just an idea in the making to being one of the most well-known GAA clubs in the country.  In the interim years so many people have put their shoulder to the wheel and the same people will be very proud today as Slaughtneil are now “more than a club”. 

These unsung heroes have been paid back in bucketloads over the past few years.  Watching Louise Dougan carry the Martin Mulholland Cup into Slaughtneil Hall, seeing ‘Sammy’ Bradley kick a monster score to win an Ulster title or witnessing the hurlers complete their three in a row.  This is what it is all about, the things you dream about when you start playing at U8 and U10.

When the 2016 season begins the fields will again be full of youngsters aiming to one day walk up Slaughtneil Hall with a county title. Not all will get there but it won’t be for the want of trying.