Easkey claim Aodh Ó Dalaigh
Sunday last saw the 30th anniversary of the Aodh O Dálaigh under 12 hurling tournament hosted by the Aodh Ruadh Juvenile Hurling Committee. This tournament began in 1982 to honour the late Hugh Daly former Aodh Ruadh club member and long serving secretary of the Donegal County Board. He was widely regarded as one of the finest GAA administrators in Donegal and Ulster and considered years ahead of his time.
The tournament was initially run as a town league and was established by Owen Roe O'Neill, Billy Finn and the late Seamus Grimes, over the last few years this tournament has attracted some of the top under 12 teams in the northwest. This year six teams took part in the tournament and it was a proud day for all involved in underage hurling in Aodh Ruadh to welcome two leading teams from Antrim; Ballycastle and Glenshesk, to the tournament. Easkey from west Sligo made their debut in this tournament and the other teams taking part were Coolera/Strandhill and Naomh Eoin from Sligo and host club Aodh Ruadh.
Before play began at 11am a minute of silence was respectfully observed by all for the late Karen Coyles, the chairperson of Ballycastle Camogie Club and captain of Ballycastle Camogie team who tragically passed away recently.
Play began then and for the next four and half hours over 100 young hurlers put on a great display of hurling full of all the skills of our wonderful national game. In all there was 17 games of hurling played and the sliothars flew from end to end as every player gave it their all. With the splendid facilities available now in Aodh Ruadh there were three pitches in operation and the large crowds were treated to some fantastic hurling played in a sporting spirit that honoured the late Hugh Daly.
The tournament was played in a round robin series with all teams getting five games in the group section. The opening round of games saw a very stylish Glenshesk team beat Aodh Ruadh. In an all-Sligo clash Coolera/Strandhill beat Naomh Eoin, and the first shock of the day saw a very determined Easkey team beat the famed Ballycastle team from north Antrim.
Round two saw Easkey continuing their rich vein of form by beating Glenshesk, Aodh Ruadh got their first win narrowly defeating Naomh Eoin and Ballycastle also registered their opening win, with victory over Coolera/Strandhill.
After the first two rounds the standard of play on display was drawing much praise from all present and all the teams from Sligo and Donegal were really lifting their game to meet the challenge of the Antrim teams.
Round three saw the two teams from the Glens of Antrim play out a great draw, Aodh Ruadh continued their improved performance and defeated Coolera / Strandhill and in another Sligo derby the west Sligo men narrowly defeated Naomh Eoin.
At this stage it was becoming clear that Easkey were going to qualify for the Aodh Ó Dálaigh final and the other spot in the final would be between the Glensmen.
Round four saw Ballycastle defeat host club Aodh Ruadh in one of the day's best games that was full of passion and commitment and end to end play. The Antrim men's quicker first touch and ability to catch the high ball proved decisive. Easkey had a big win over their Sligo rivals Coolera / Strandhill and Glenshesk had a good win over Naomh Eoin.
Round five saw the final set of games and the improvement in all teams as the day went on was very evident for all to see, as was the enjoyment the young players were getting from playing such a series of competitive games. Easkey were through to the final, but their opponents were still not clear due to the earlier draw and it was clear that score difference was going to be required to separate these close rivals.
Easkey made it 5 in a row with a comprehensive win over Aodh Ruadh, both Ballycastle and Glenshesk had big victories over Naomh Eoin and Coolera/Strandhill respectively.
Now it was to time to get the calculators out to establish which of the Antrim teams would qualify for the final, with all the scores in the closeness of the Antrim teams was shown when tournament score co-ordinator Bernie Kelly announced that after 5 games only 4 points of a score difference separated the teams with Glenshesk coming out on the right side of the calculations.
Aodh Ó Dálaigh and Primary League finals.
The stage was now set for the two finals the main event being an eagerly awaited rematch between a very focused and determined Easkey team and a very classy and skilful Glenshesk team. The Primary final to determine third and fourth place was between Ballycastle and the home team Aodh Ruadh. Both finals were tremendous games and neutrals were spoilt for choice with two brilliant games taking place on adjoining pitches, at this stage these four teams had played close on 2 hours hurling, but were determined to give it their all in these two finals and to really leave every ounce of energy out on Father Tierney Park.
Easkey were roared on by a huge travelling support, but Glenshesk with the aid of the wind in the first half turned over leading by 2 points, 2-3 to 1-4. In the other final only a goal separated the teams with the Glensmen on top but Aodh Ruadh were giving it their all and making a real contest of it.
As the second half of the Aodh Ó Dálaigh went on the physically stronger Easkey men battled to the end roared on by their large enthusiastic support. Credit to Glenshesk they never gave up, but tiredness got the better of them and Easkey showed the importance of having a large panel and ran out winners 4-6 to 3-4.
Back over to the primary final Ballycastle finished strongly to secure the Primary Shield, but not before having being pushed to the limit by Aodh Ruadh who just fell to a couple of late goals on a score line of 4-6 to 2-3.
So a great day's hurling, arguably the best ever day's hurling, in Father Tierney Park came to a close. From the pitch the hungry hordes of young hurlers headed to Aras Aoidh Ruaidh where the host club's mothers as usual fed and catered for a crowd of over 200 hungry souls. New contacts were made between clubs over a cup of tea and as is typical of hurling enthusiasts the previous battles of the day were left on the field and the talk had turned to possible trips from Sligo to Antrim and more trips for Aodh Ruadh to Ballycastle.
Aodh Ruadh Juvenile Hurling Chairman John Rooney spoke of the late Hugh Daly and of his love of the GAA and how this interest passed down to all of his children, none more so than his son Tom, a former Ulster Council President who is a great supporter of this tournament.
He also welcomed all the teams to the tournament and thanked them for accepting the invitation to this tournament; he especially thanked the Ballycastle club for coming after the tragic death of their former member Karen Coyles. He also welcomed Billy Finn who along with Owen Roe O'Neill and the late Seamus Grimes set up this tournament in 1982 initially as a town league. He spoke of how proud all involved in underage hurling in Aodh Ruadh were to have two great teams from such a traditional hurling area as north Antrim coming to take part in this tournament. The first speaker he called on was Conor Carney Principal of Holy Family National School, Ballyshannon to present the Primary Shield on behalf of the local national schools to the victorious Ballycastle team. Rooney spoke of the great work Conor does promoting hurling in the school and how Holy Family had won the county schools again in 2011.
Conor began As Gaelige describing hurling as the fastest and most skilful game in the world, he spoke of how it's our national game and of how uniquely Irish it is. He spoke of the great work being done promoting hurling in the area by the local Aodh Ruadh Juvenile Hurling Committee; he spoke of the high standard of hurling which he had witnessed in Father Tierney Park. He presented the shield to the Ballycastle captain and medals to each of the panel. He also presented the primary league runners up medals to host club Aodh Ruadh.
John Rooney thanked all the local juvenile hurling committee for all their help, lining out the pitches umpiring, etc, he thanked fellow referees Peter Horan and Eddie Lynch for all their work during the day and the good standard of refereeing added to the standard of play on display. He thanked Pauric Keenaghan, Kevin Loughlin, Robert Ayres and all the under 16 hurlers who acted as linesmen and umpires for all the games. He thanked all the mothers who catered for the crowds with their usual high standard, he hoped that the fathers would step up to the mark next Saturday with the club's fund-raising event Scrap Saturday, collecting scrap metal. He thanked Rossa McCosker Centra Ballyshannon for providing crisps for every child who took part in this great tournament. He thanked all the club's managers and pointed out to the young hurlers all the work their mentors and parents do for them. Finally he thanked all the young hurlers for their commitment and honesty on the day and for the spirit in which they played the game which made it easy for all the refs. He then called on Tom Daly on behalf of the Daly family to present the Aodh Ó Dálaigh trophy.
Tom began by thanking the juvenile hurling committee for organising this tournament and spoke of how much it meant to him and his family. He spoke of how proud he was to see hurlers from North Antrim willing to come and play hurling in Donegal. He commented on the great standard of hurling he had seen that day, he complimented all clubs on the great work they were doing and especially complimented Easkey on promoting hurling in an area where there was never a tradition of hurling. Like everyone present he complimented and thanked the local mothers for the wonderful job they did catering for everyone and spoke of how important they are in helping keep hurling alive in the club and mentioned how the first game actually played in Aodh Ruadh was hurling. He presented the runners up medals to the Glenshesk captain and panel, then the moment that all of Easkey had been waiting for all day the Aodh Ó Dálaigh shield was presented to their captain to scenes of great delight that would do the steps of the Hogan Stand credit. Tom finished by calling on the Easkey manager Mick Gordon to talk to the crowd about how this hurling revolution came about in Easkey.
Mick spoke of how they are a combination of two clubs in west Sligo and of their great love and dedication to hurling. He thanked Aodh Ruadh for their invitation to this tournament, he spoke of the great parental support which he receives in Easkey and of how proud he is of his panel on and off the field.
John Rooney concluded by thanking everyone again and wishing all a safe trip home and spoke of his hope to see everyone again in 2012. So came to an end a great days hurling marking the 30th anniversary of the Aodh Ó Dálaigh tournament.
Last modified: Monday, 1 June 2020 at 1:14pm