By Daragh Ë Conch·ir
A 60th minute point from Karen Kelly set the seal on a fine second half rally by Waterford to snatch a draw in the Gala All-Ireland premier junior final at Croke Park.
Antrim held the upper hand for much of this encounter, leading at the end of a dour first half by 0-4 to 0-3.
Nerves clearly had a role to play in that opening period. Two-time All Star Jane Adams fired over two frees for Antrim but had a third inexplicably scrubbed out by referee Donal Leahy for a square ball. Waterford hung in there with points from Karen Kelly and -ine Lyng.
The second half was a more open affair and the more imposing Saffrons looked set for victory as they opened up a five-point advantage, due largely to Raquel McCarry’s goal from close range.
Adams laid the groundwork for that score but was struggling to have as much of an impact as might have been expected, due to the double-teaming tactics employed by Waterford.
The Munster girls gradually worked themselves back into the game and hit four consecutive points from Lyng (two), Jenny McCarthy and Kelly before Grßinne Kenneally booted to the Antrim net in the 53rd minute after fielding McCarthy’s delivery brilliantly.
Within a minute, Kelly sent a rasper into the side-netting and a goal then would probably have sealed Waterford’s first ever title but Antrim had plenty left in the tank.
Katie McAleese caught brilliantly in a heavily contested aerial battle before turning and lofting over before Adams pushed pushed them ahead with just over a minute remaining, after making space brilliantly.
Waterford were not to be beaten though and Kelly sent over her third point from play from 35m with just seconds of normal time remaining to equalise.
There was still time for one last attack from the DÚise. Niamh Rockett’s persistence earned an opportunity but her shot veered just wide and the sides will meet once again on October 3.
Antrim: M Graham; R Torney, A Martin, A Jackson; C Doherty, E Connolly, B Orchin; K O’Neill, N Connolly; M Convery 0-1, N McGuinness 0-1, S Graham, R McCarry 1-2, J Adams 0-4(3fs), L Connolly. Subs: A McCall for Martin inj (7); C Hamill for N Connolly (28); K McAleese 0-1 for L Connolly (36); M Connolly for Orchin (48); L McMullan for Hamill (57)
Waterford: A O’Brien; E Hannon, S Curran, KM Hearne; P Cunningham, P Jackman 0-1(f), J Simpson; C Raher, M Murphy; A Lyng 0-4(3fs), G Kennelly 1-0, J McCarthy 0-1; N Rockett, K Kelly 0-3, N Morrissey. Subs: D Fahy for Murphy (39); S Kiernan for Morrissey (39)
Referee: D Leahy (Tipperary)