ULSTER GAA PRESIDENT

Martin McAviney

Martin McAviney

It’s been an important weekend for the GAA in County Monaghan. First there was confirmation that the new Uachtarán Chomairle Uladh (President of the Ulster Council) is Ballybay man Martin McAviney. Many in the border area and the Press Golf Society will remember the great work done by his late brother John, a photographer.

At the same time, the GAA Ard Stiúrthóir Paraic Duffy was back in Monaghan to attend a gala ball organised by his alma mater, St Macartan’s College, where he was also the Principal for many years. It was celebrating the 100-year history of the GAA in the College, which includes winning the MacRory Cup on nine occasions, but not since 1956 although they have appeared in two finals in the past decade. On Wednesday week (27th February) the “Sem” will take on St Paul’s Bessbrook (Armagh) in the semi-final of the competition under lights in Armagh (7:30pm).

Martin McAviney is a member of the Pearse Brothers club in Ballybay. He is a member of the Club Committee and a Club Trustee. He has previously served as Club Secretary and Club Chairman and received the Coiste Chontae Mhuineachain Senior Official of the year 1984. He joined the Monaghan County Board as Ulster Representative in 1987 and held the position until being elected as P.R.O. of Comhairle Uladh in 2004, a role he carried out very effectively.

During his term as P.R.O., Martin was awarded the Ulster GAA Writers Communications Award in 2005. Martin took up a position of Cisteoir (Treasurer) of the Ulster Council in 2007, and in March 2010, he was elected as Leas-Uachtarán (Vice President). On his first full day in the new job, Martin was at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh to watch the interprovincial hurling and football semi-finals, previously known as the Railway Cup.

The competition was reinstated to the GAA calendar last year, but has failed to attract the support it used to get in the 1950s and 60s when large crowds would turn up at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day for the finals. The club finals have taken over the slot and continue to bring in the numbers, but it seems the appetite for interprovincial competitions has faded, judging by the attendances at the semis. So the final of the football competition at Croke Park next Sunday has now been fixed to coincide with AIB Club junior final. The hurling final will be a week later.

Joe Kernan

Joe Kernan

HURLING:  MUNSTER 3-20 ULSTER 1-14 

FOOTBALL: ULSTER 1-14 MUNSTER 1-13

Nice to see former Armagh boss Joe Kernan back in action as coach of the Ulster football side. He expressed his concern at the low attendance, given the quality of football on display. Monaghan made an important contribution to the Ulster side with Conor McManus scoring four points. The team was captained by Scotstown’s Darren Hughes, whose brother Kieran came on as a substitute.

Darren Hughes, Ulster

Darren Hughes, Ulster

TRIBESMEN ADVANCE

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

ST THOMAS’ (Galway) 0-15 LOUGHGIEL SHAMROCKS 0-07

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

MONAGHAN HURLING

Dr Croke Cup

Dr Croke Cup

The words “Monaghan” and “hurling” don’t sit naturally together. Monaghan is a footballing county, although the Farney men have never succeeded in winning the Sam Maguire Cup. But after this evening’s result in the Allianz National League, when Monaghan were defeated by neighbours Cavan at Breffni Park, perhaps the time has come for a change! If you look closely enough at the reflection in the silver of the cup, you can see how I managed to include the Tipperary colours of my tie in the picture!

This afternoon during a visit to my mother-in-law in Castleblayney, which is also my mother’s home town, I was pleased to get an opportunity to see the spoils of Kilkenny’s hurling victories. There was the Liam McCarthy Cup, presented to the All-Ireland senior champions. Alongside it was the Dr Croke Cup, the trophy for the National Hurling League champions of 2012, having defeated Cork in the final (www.gaa.ie report).

National League Champions Kilkenny

National Hurling League Champions 2012 Kilkenny (gaa.ie photo)

The trophies came to Castleblayney in the custody of Kilkenny kit manager Denis “Rackard” Cody, an important member of the county’s backroom team. I did not get a chance to ask him if his nickname came from the famous Wexford hurlers! The cups were brought to Ulster with a purpose: to encourage the development of hurling at secondary school level. The under-12s and under-14s from Our Lady’s secondary school and their counterparts from East Cavan Gaels took part in a match and coaching session run by Cody.

Kilkenny GAA

Kilkenny GAA

He joined the Kilkenny set-up in 1977 and has served as kit manager for the past ten  years. He refereed 15 county finals in all grades, and officiated also at National League level. He was elected the first Mayor of Graignamanagh in 1982 (Kilkenny People). He brings his knowledge and passion for hurling around the country. In November he visited one of the cradles of hurling, the Glens of Antrim, as a guest of the Robert Emmet club in Cushendun and helped run an underage competition.

Hurling can continue to be successful in Ulster and can only benefit from the expertise of the Noresiders. Title holders Loughgiel Shamrocks from the Glens were playing this afternoon in an All-Ireland club semi-final, which ended in a draw after extra time and will have to go to a replay. I also recall walking through the grounds of UCD in Belfield, near the sports centre, when I spotted a young lad with a Monaghan GAA top…..carrying a hurley. Such a rare sight that I felt it necessary to go up to him and congratulate him on his perseverance!