GAA Football

Saffrons footballers' scores and saves to savour from the 2010s

Antrim's Kevin O'Boyle saves a last-minute shot from Fermanagh's Ryan McCluskey in the 2014 Ulster SFC.
Picture Colm O'Reilly
Padraig O Meisceill

2010 National Football League Division Three: Antrim 1-12 Sligo 0-14

Paddy Cunningham point (Casement Park)

ANTRIM followed up their Ulster Championship final appearance of the year before with a table-topping performance in Division Three and promotion – and the scores which got them there didn’t come any finer than Paddy Cunningham’s on the opening day against Sligo.

Cunningham, who was to be in irrepressible form throughout this campaign, hit 1-5 against the westerners here, with his show-stopping final kick turning out to be the winner.

The game was on the verge of injury-time when the Lamh Dhearg clubman cut in from the tightest of angles and kicked over a peach of a point which allowed the Saffrons to hang on and kickstart their promotion tilt.

Sligo would ultimately get their revenge over Antrim in the Division Three final at Croke Park, but wins over Cavan, Fermanagh, Roscommon and Louth had already assured Liam Bradley’s men of their place in Gaelic football’s second tier for 2011.

 

2011 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifier round one: Antrim 0-16 Westmeath 1-7

Brendan Herron point (Casement Park)

THE Saffrons had exited the 2011 Ulster Championship with a whimper in a six-point defeat to Donegal. However, they made amends against Westmeath and, in the process, picked up their first All-Ireland Qualifier win in a decade.

Brendan Herron was excellent in this clash, particularly in the second-half, his incessant foraging for the ball and his link-up play making Westmeath’s life an awful lot harder than they perhaps thought it was going to be. The Lamh Dhearg man’s icing on the cake moment came deep into injury-time when he broke free of the Westmeath defence and slotted over a glorious two-fisted point, confirming a morale-boosting win.

Antrim would beat Carlow in the next round before losing to Down in Casement Park in the middle of July, but at least they had got that Qualifier monkey off their back, with no small help from Herron.

 

2012 National Football League Division Three: Antrim 2-14 Offaly 1-8

Tomas McCann goal (Casement Park)

LIAM ‘Baker’ Bradley’s men had high hopes of an automatic return to Division Two as the 2012 season began and their morale was boosted by this impressive win over Offaly at Casement Park.

Paddy Cunningham hit the back of the net with a brilliant finish, while James Loughrey scored 0-3 from play in his latest display of sound defending and decisive attacking, but the pick of the bunch was Tomas McCann’s major. Just 18 seconds into the second-half, McCann went on a mazy, jinking run through the heart of the Offaly defence, skinning a hapless James Gallagher in the process, before finishing calmly to the back of the net.

McCann was given the man of the match award at the end of a contest which ‘Baker’ said the Saffrons should have won by 29 points as opposed to nine. Ultimately, though, their promotion drive would come up just short.

 

2012 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifier round two: Antrim 0-11 Galway 0-10

Deaghlan O’Hagan point (Casement Park)

SPRUNG from the bench in the 68th minute, Deaghlan O’Hagan performed his cameo role superbly in this famous win in Andersonstown.

Padraic Joyce looked to have spared Galway’s blushes in the 70th minute when he put the visitors from Connacht in front, but up stepped Tomas McCann to level matters with a cracking point, which set the stage nicely for O’Hagan to deliver victory in injury-time with an even more spectacular score. Kicked in the 72nd minute, O’Hagan showed nerves of steel to split the posts.

Frustratingly for Antrim, they were drawn against Tipperary in the next round, but went down to Semple Stadium and proceeded to lose by two points, which turned what could have been an era defining win into a mere flash in the pan. Saffron fans will always have that afternoon when O’Hagan split the posts at the death though.

 

2012 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifier round two: Antrim 0-11 Galway 0-10

Chris Kerr save (Casement Park)

KERR made a few of them in this famous victory. The most impressive were his 21st minute stop from Conor Doherty and his point-blank save to stop a certain Michael Meehan goal in the second-half. Without Kerr, Galway may have been home and hosed before that famous Saffron finale.

 

2014 Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Antrim 2-18 Fermanagh 3-13

Kevin Niblock goal (Brewster Park)

COMING into this game, Antrim were minus three big names as CJ McGourty, Chris Kerr and Michael Pollock opted off the panel after a falling out in the squad, but you wouldn’t have known it by the way the Saffrons blitzed Fermanagh from the off.

Brian ‘Bam’ Neeson was in brilliant form up front, hitting 1-5, as Kevin Niblock and himself carved the Erne defence into tiny pieces. It was Niblock who got the score of the afternoon. When Michael McCann took a great fetch at midfield the ball was then delivered to Niblock and his precision strike with the outside of a boot produced the desired effect on the rippling net.

Unbelievably, Antrim almost contrived to lose this game, being pegged back from 11 points in front on two separate occasions. In the end, the foot of Kevin O’Boyle prevented a last-gasp Fermanagh goal and a Saffron meltdown. Donegal in the semi-final were a different proposition entirely, however.

 

2014 Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Antrim 2-18 Fermanagh 3-13

Kevin O’Boyle save (Brewster Park)

NOT a goalkeeper admittedly, but Kevin O’Boyle’s last-gasp block on the line prevented major embarrassment for Antrim at Brewster Park.

Having contrived to twice squander 11-point leads, Antrim were staring down the barrel of a Championship exit when Ryan McCluskey teed up a 72nd minute winner for Fermanagh, only for O’Boyle to get a foot to the ball at the last second.

 

2015 All-Ireland SFC Qualifier round 1A: Antrim 2-15 Laois 1-16

Chris Kerr save (O’Moore Park)

KERR produced this game’s pivotal moment after Laois midfielder Brendan Quigley was dragged back in the square and referee Derek O’Mahoney awarded a penalty.

A Laois goal at that stage of the second-half would have killed the game, but Kerr dived to his left to save Ross Munnelly’s shot and the Saffrons attack then did the rest.

 

2019 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifier round one: Antrim 2-16 Louth 1-11

Matt Fitzpatrick goal (Brewster Park)

ANTRIM fans may feel a slight pang at the sight of Matt Fitzpatrick’s name since the former St John’s man decided to dedicate himself to soccer.

However, if there is a memory that stands out of Fitzpatrick’s time in the saffron jersey, it may be his virtuoso performance in last summer’s Qualifier win over Louth. Antrim went into the round one fixture off the back of a comprehensive dismissal by Tyrone, while the Wee county had suffered their own provincial nightmare at the hands of Dublin. Confidence levels may not have been high in either camp then, but Fitzpatrick belied this as he hit both goals in what turned out to be a comfortable victory for the Saffrons.

His second goal was the standout of the two as he burst through a bewildered Louth defence to fire high into the roof of the net and put Antrim in control of the game in the run up to half-time. Unfortunately for Antrim, Fitzpatrick’s eye for goal was also a wandering one.

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