U11s win North Antrim Tournament in Style!

Our much travelled U11s enjoyed an unforgettable weekend in the beautiful North Antrim Coast on August 13/14th, winning the high quality tournament in great style. This is truly the best underage tournament this reporter has come across in his many years of travelling the island for top quality hurling.

The North Antrim Board have recently introduced Development Squads from U10 in an effort to raise standards and they been very successful in doing so. They entered 2 local teams themselves and Clonmel, O'Loughlin Gaels, Naas and ourselves completed the line-up. Each team played 4 matches on Saturday in Armoy to determine the semi-final pairings for Sunday. The Crokes men started out by pipping North Antrim by 4 points in as good an u11 game as you could wish to see. A straightforward victory against a young O'Loughlins outfit was followed by a narrow 3 point defeat to the Antrim Glens selection in another classic that would have been worth the drive for on its own. There was no time to dwell on that loss as Clonmel were up within 5 minutes. A very good start gave the Crokes men a platform for a comfortable win. With Crokes and the 2 Antrim teams tied at the top, and Naas coming in 4th, the semi-final pairings were set.

A barbecue followed the hurling for all the teams while watching a tame enough affair in Thurles by comparison to their own battles. Then it was back to the Whitepark Bay Hostel in Ballintoy, surely the most picturesque budget accommodation anywhere in the world, for relaxation and debrief. No problem getting these young lads to bed early. The only thing on their minds was who we were playing in the semi-final.

That semi-final opposition was North Antrim and the match was again an outstanding battle in which Crokes held out against ferocious late pressure to win by 2 points. Naas had surprised the Antrim Glens men in the other semi to set up an all Leinster final. The final was played on Ballycastle McQuillans superb pitches following a pipe band parade. Crokes have experience against this very strong Naas team and took nothing for granted. The Dubliners seemed the stronger outfit from early on but excellent Naas tackling and defence meant that a lead of 5 points after a wind assisted first half seemed scant reward for their efforts. Early points in the second half eased fears of a storming comeback and while the Naas goal was never breached, the Crokes defence was vice like and held their hardworking opponents scoreless. Crokes carried off the spoils and captain, Ben Lynch, was presented with the magnificent trophy after a 9 points to nil victory. Each and every player gave their all for the cause throughout the weekend and deserve equal praise for a win fashioned from hard work, honesty and teamwork.

Many thanks to our generous hosts in Armoy and Ballycastle GAA clubs, to Whitepark Bay Hostel and to the North Antrim GAA Board, who generously covered 50% of the players accommodation costs. Also, huge appreciation to team manager, Diarmuid Walsh, who must be the hardest working and most dedicated juvenile coach/manager in the GAA. These boys, and Kilmacud Crokes Hurling, are truly lucky to have a man of his calibre in their charge.

Panel: James Kilroy, Robert Phelan, Ben Lynch, Sean McIntyre, Joe Quigley, Tom Maher, Mark Dempsey, Dave Lucey, Brendan Kenny, Ciaran O'Donnell, Conal O'Riain, Jake Fuller, Eamon Kenny, Ruairi Walsh, Finn Walsh.