By Michael McMullan
THERE is an even bigger buzz in Glenravel this week as the club look forward to another two county finals with a treble lingering in the back of the mind.
With the Intermediate Ladies Football title in the bag, 12 of the players take on Portglenone in camogie this weekend with the senior men also in final action against Dunloy in a first intermediate decider since 1979.
Alec McQuillan played in their win over St Paul’s 43 years ago as part of a career that also spanned 11 years in the Saffron of Antrim. He tipped with the club until a cruciate injured forced him into retirement at the age of 53.
“I wasn’t playing in the senior team at that point,” joked McQuillan, a member of the club executive.
Looking on from the other side of the white line, there is an enthusiastic tone in his voice as he speaks about the momentum. They were hurling champions last season and case more glory this weekend.
When Antrim had their All-Ireland winning homecoming in Glenravel after winning the Ladies Football title, Maeve Mulholland, Clare Emerson, Marie McKenna and Molly Woulahan were the local quartet with medals in their pockets.
And it’s not just on the pitch. Glenravel’s novelty act and quiz team have an Ulster Scór final to look forward to.
There is a vibrant traditional music culture with Paula Fyfe getting a monthly sessions up and running.
“They circulate the musicians between different venues – It is about getting young people involved in traditional music,” McQuillan explains.
He hails the “great addition” the Ladies Football scene has brought to the club and this weekend the men have their chance to write themselves into the club’s history.
“Many from my vintage would’ve been used to playing Senior Championship. You are yearning to get back to that level and get back to Division One,” McQuillan outlines, pointing to the appointment of former Bellaghy and Derry Joe Cassidy as football manager as a major coup.
“It has been massive,” he said. “In terms of the expertise he has and, as a teacher, how he has the skills to relate to teenagers and he gets on terrifically well with them.”
Cassidy is joined by Greenlough man Paul Downey, Ian Hynds who coached many of the players and Aodh O’Loan oversees the analysis side of things.
There has been an influx from last year’s u-20 winning team all the way to veteran Martin McCarry who won an intermediate title with his native Portglenone with marriage eventually taking him to Glenravel.
Connor McNeill, David Higgins and Declan Traynor are the middle group or players before the age profile tapers down to lads in their early twenties and below.
McQuillan also puts the success – in all codes – down to a culture of physical conditioning with a fully equipped gym part of their impressive facilities nestled in a picturesque landscape.
“Joe has been able to harness the potential they have and has worked well for us this year,” McQuillan feels.
“We found that, physically, we were lacking against the stronger teams in Division Two…Moneyglass, Ballymena and Randalstown. They had that physicality that we were not able to match.”
There is a long-term feel about what’s happening in the club, but this weekend is about business and silverware.
“We haven’t won anything yet and Dunloy will have a big say in it,” McQuillan concludes.
Beyond that, the club has a vibrant coaching structure and with the parish population growing, Glenravel footing is a solid one.
There are also some players from the Glens’ hurling only clubs opting for football in Glenravel during their underage years. Some stay for senior and others don’t
“We have a good relationship with these clubs,” McQuillan points out. “It helps you to play at (Grade) A level so we can be competing at the top grade all the way through.”
It helped shape the u-20 team that have fed into the squad Joe Cassidy will send out at Dunsilly this weekend.
The treble is on, but there are many hard yards to be gain yet. It would help propel Glenravel’s development to another level.