IT was a night of nostalgia for the members of their 1969 Antrim U-21 team which celebrated their unique achievement with a special celebration at the weekend.
As Dublin made history in claiming the historic five-in-a-row, the Saffron boys of half a century ago marked their own special milestone. The players and their families attended a celebratory function in the Balmoral Hotel, before moving onto the Social Club at Casement Park where more special memories were revived.
Down legend, Colm McAlarney, a member of the Mourne team which had won the All-Ireland in 1968, made special presentations to the players and the family representatives of those who have died in the intervening 50 years.
On September 14, 1969, Antrim defeated Roscommon in the All-Ireland U-21 final. It remains the county’s only national football title and came after a magnificent campaign which included a win over the then reigning All-Ireland U21 champions, Derry.
Andy McCallin, who scored 1-5 on that never-to-be-forgotten day, was one of the chief organisers of the event and remarked on the importance of acknowledging and remembering the unique contribution of those players.
“It is the players ourselves who organised the event because we feel it is really important to mark their success,” he said.
“Antrim have never won an All-Ireland title before or since that 1969 title. Over the past 50 years the significance of this has perhaps been forgotten and it is vital that we are exalted until such times as another team comes and wins a similar success.
“Four or five members of the team are dead. They have never reached the 50 year mark which is sad. I just think it’s disappointing that this success has never been officially recognised within our county.
“One of the reasons for Antrim being a sleeping giant in gaelic football terms is as a result of that. There is so much which could be done, even now, to highlight our success and capitalise on its potential. We are the homegrown stars and the personalities who could be promoted.”
“It is about us and the whole squad who went out and played that year, and went on to win that All-Ireland. I couldn’t have lived with myself if I hadn’t helped to initiate this event.”