Dick Clerkin: A Helping Hand

Dick Clerkin: A Helping Hand

Monaghan 3-16 Antrim 0-13

This was a convincing performance by Monaghan at St Tiarnach’s Park in Clones, which earned the Farneymen promotion to division two of the Allianz National Football League next season. But they were up against an Antrim side which at times lacked in conviction and was too reliant on Paddy Cunningham. The Lámh Dhearg man scored eight of their points, half of them from frees.

The visitors had a great chance in the first minute, but Cunningham’s shot at goal from close range was blocked by an effective Monaghan defence. The ball was cleared up the field and a pass found Christopher McGuinness in the perfect spot to rattle the Antrim net, giving substitute keeper Chris Kerr little chance.

Job well done

Job well done

Monaghan added two points in the next four minutes, then Cunningham got the first of his frees, making it 1-2 to 0-1. Both sides exchanged further scores then Monaghan started to apply the pressure, adding four points, one of them a beautifully taken one from long range by Dick Clerkin. Two more Cunningham frees for the visitors had made it 1-7 to 0-03 after 25 minutes, when Antrim got their first score from play through Michael Pollock, then each side added a further point. Then with the break approaching Kieran Hughes scored Monaghan’s second goal, 2-8 to 0-5. Cunningham and Paul Finlay for Monaghan were both on target with frees and a neatly-taken point by St Gall’s half forward Kevin Niblock rounded off the first half and meant that Antrim still had a slim chance of turning things round in the second, although trailing by eight points,

Monaghan 2-9 Antrim 0-7 Half Time 

Antrim got off to a good start in the second half, but Monaghan were more than capable of dealing with any of their attacks and McGuinness almost grabbed his second goal but was penalised for over-carrying. It was left to his colleague Darren Hughes to assure a Monaghan win with a nice three-pointer in the 49th minute, 3-11 to 0-9.

Conor McManus point

Conor McManus point

Eoin Duffy added a good point at the end of an attack involving Conor McManus, Owen Lennon and Clerkin, but Antrim hit back with three in a row – two from Cunningham and one by Michael Pollock. McManus kicked a couple of points from frees after fouls on Kieran Hughes and Stephen Gollogly. Andy McClean rounded off the scoring for the Saffrons, but Monaghan were deserving winners. Hughes though received a second yellow and therefore a red card before the final whistle, so Monaghan ended the game with fourteen players.

The two teams will face each other again in the Ulster senior football championship in June. Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke said afterwards he thought the game at Casement Park will not be as easy:-

We are delighted to get the win and secure promotion. We knew Antrim would be tricky opponents but we got a good start and kept the lead. Antrim battled hard but we got the goal at the right time – they had a lot of players missing and it will be a completely different team when we meet them in the championship”, he said.

Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke

Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke

Before then, the Farneymen will take on Meath in the division three final at Croke Park in Dublin on April 27th. One thing that annoyed me about the Antrim side this afternoon (which did not include any players from my Belfast parish of St Brigid’s). As Amhrán na bhFiann was being sung before the throw-in, some of the Saffron players were jumping up and down, doing their stretching exercises. One of them broke away from the bunch before the national anthem had even ended. Very disrespectful, in my opinion, and not something the Tyrone management or I’m sure any other county would encourage.


Conor Cooney

Conor Cooney

 I wrote the other day about Monaghan hurling: it’s the Cinderella sport in a footballing county. So it was nice to be able to see a top class game of hurling in Clones. The All-Ireland club championship semi-final replay between St Thomas’ from the Kilchreest and Peterswell area of County Galway and the Loughgiel Shamrocks from the Glens of Antrim, one of the cradles of hurling. The long and wide dimensions of the pitch at St Tiarnach’s Park make it very suitable for hurling and watching the highlights now on TG4 it loohs really well on television. On the other side of the coin, I noticed that one of the All-Ireland club football semi-finals between sides from Kerry and Dublin was played at Semple Stadium in Thurles, a very important place for the GAA and a ground that is more associated with hurling!

St Thomas's supporters

St Thomas’s supporters


Conor Cooney was the top scorer for the Galwaymen, with a series of frees in the second half that helped to see off the challenge of the men from the Glens of Antrim. Loughgiel for whom Liam Watson put six frees between the posts were trailing by a single point at the break, 0-6 to 0-5. Two Watson frees in the second half were all the Shamrocks could manage. Eddie McCloskey scored their only point from play just before the break, to keep his side in the contest after the first thirty minutes.  But it could have been a very different result if a beautifully struck shot from Benny McCarry had found the net instead of glancing off the post in the first five minutes.

Bernard Burke is congratulated

Bernard Burke is congratulated

St Thomas’ must be fairly unique as it has three sets of brothers on the team, six of them from the Burke family. The club concentrates only on hurling and won their first Galway senior championship last year. Precedent was on their side as no Galway club had ever lost in a club semi-final replay. Likewise, no Antrim side had ever won a replay at this stage. So congratulations to the tribesmen, who go on to meet Kilcormac-Killoughey from County Offaly in the final at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day as part of a double bill in which Ballymun Kickhams are up against Roscommon and Connacht champions St Brigid’s in the club football final. So no Ulster involvement in the finals this year.

St Thomas's players wind down

St Thomas’s players wind down


Maire McCluskey, Sr Nuala SSL, Fr Peter OMI, Sr Ethna SSL, Canon Brian McCluskey & Una McMahon

A County Monaghan family has marked  a significant milestone in the Catholic church in Ireland, with over 350 years between them in religious life. There was double cause for celebration at the St Louis Convent in Dundalk as two of the McCluskeys from Inniskeen, a priest, Fr Peter, and a nun, Sr Ethna, held their diamond (60) and platinum (70) jubilees respectively. Mass was concelebrated by their youngest brother, Canon Brian, a priest for 52 years. Sr Ethna McCluskey entered the Louis convent in Monaghan in 1942, 100 years after the order was founded in France. Her brother Peter who studied at St Macartan’s seminary in Monaghan entered the Oblate fathers (O.M.I.) in 1945 and was ordained on June 22nd 1952. Sr Ethna trained as a national teacher at Our Lady of Mercy College, Carysfort in Dublin and went on to teach at the St Louis Convent in Rathmines. For many years she was Principal of the Girls’ National School in Clones before taking up a similar position in Dundalk. Her final appointment was as superior of the St Louis Convent in Kilkeel, Co.Down. Since her retirement in 2004 she has been residing at the Convent on the Castleblayney Road in Dundalk, a few kilometres from her family home at Blackstaff in Inniskeen. The poet Patrick Kavanagh was a near neighbour. Canon Brian recalls how he used to borrow books from his mother’s private library at the local national school where she taught. Fr Peter’s first posting as a missionary priest sixty years ago was to South Africa. His journey by cargo boat to Cape Town took three weeks. He worked in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg from 1952 until his return to Ireland in 2007. He witnessed the end of the apartheid regime in 1994 and the election of Nelson Mandela as President.

Sr Ethna

Sr Ethna

Sr Ethna is the eldest of the family of eight. Six of them gathered at the convent in Dundalk for the Mass celebrated by Fr Peter, who since 2007 has been living at the Oblate house at Inchicore in Dublin. Joining him at the altar was his younger brother Canon Brian McCluskey, a retired priest of the diocese of Clogher, who served as a curate in his home parish of Inniskeen and was a parish priest in Threemilehouse and later Roslea. He now lives in Belfast with his sister Maire, who worked for the Northern Ireland orthopaedic service. Canon McCluskey studied at the Irish College in Rome and celebrated his golden jubilee two years ago along with his classmate, Monsignor Ambrose Macaulay. He still says Sunday Mass at St Brigid’s parish. They were joined by two other sisters Una McMahon, a retired nurse living in Belfast and Sr Nuala, a St Louis nun now retired and living at the Convent in Dundalk with her older sister Ethna. She worked on the missions in Nigeria for many years and in 1985 was appointed to take charge of the Louis House nursing home in Monaghan. She has been a nun for 57 years. Following the Mass, members of the family and friends gathered for a meal at a local restaurant.

Frs Peter & Brian McCloskey

Two members of the family, both with 59 years in religious life, were unable to be present. Fr Gerry McCluskey is a Kiltegan priest who has been based in Sao Paolo, Brazil, since 1961. Previously he served as a missionary in Kenya. He is also a former pupil of St Macartan’s seminary in Monaghan, like his two brothers. Sr Aileen is a Mercy nun who is in Dublin and like her brother Fr Gerry is just one year short of her diamond jubilee. The five sisters were all boarders at the St Louis convent in Monaghan. So the total contribution of the McCluskey family to religious life reads as follows: Sr Ethna SSL 70 years, Fr Peter OMI 60, Sr Nuala SSL 57, Fr Gerard SPS 59, Sr Aileen RSM 59 and Canon Brian 52 years, giving a combined total of 357 years’ service to the Catholic church.  Ad multos annos. Copyright: © Michael Fisher @fishbelfast 2012 This story has appeared in the Northern Standard (front page), the Irish Catholic, the Dundalk Democrat & Monaghan Democrat editions, as well as the Dundalk Argus.

UPDATE: For a glimpse of what life was like at the St Louis (then boarding) school in Dundalk in the early 1960s, see this blog by “A Silver Voice from Ireland”.

Fr Peter &  Sr Ethna
Fr Peter & Sr Ethna
Sr Ethna & 3 sisters
Northern Standard
Dundalk/Monaghan Democrat
Sr Nuala & Fr Peter
St Louis nun & Sr Ethna
The Argus, Dundalk
Irish Catholic