A 50th minute goal by player of the match Orlaith McCallister and some outstanding saves by sterling goalkeeper Eimear McGivern were among the key factors as Antrim edged Limerick by 2-15 to 1-13 in a thrilling Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor A Shield final at UPMC Nowlan Park.
Antrim led by 1-9 to 1-7 at half-time, but Limerick had a real bounce in their steps as they had managed reduced a six-point deficit by two thirds in injury time.
Mary McArthur got the scoring under way for Antrim and Poppy Giltenane levelled but Kady McNeill hit a purple patch with three points and then McArthur goaled in the 22nd minute, pouncing on some indecision with a clever finish off the ground.
They were sitting pretty at that juncture, particularly having played into the wind but in the 32nd minute, Laura Southern capitalised on the Antrim defenders not reacting when McGivern saved Giltenane’s penalty. The Monaleen markswoman had time to lift and strike before drilling to the net. Niamh Brennan converted a 45 and the game was really on.
It was more of the same in terms of attacking intent after the restart and Leah Quinlan and McGivern were forced into saves at either end of the pitch early on. But Limerick were clearly buoyed by events just before the change of ends and four points in succession had them two clear, Brennan (three) and Róisín O’Brien (45) hitting the target for the team managed by Paul Neenan and Tony Dunne.
The Antrim response was telling though as they scored a goal and four without reply. Anna McKillop’s point moved John McArthur’s charges ahead at the beginning of the final quarter and within seconds of doubling the advantage with a superb solo score, McAllister drilled a low shot to the corner of Limerick net to put daylight between the sides.
Roscommon produced a wonderful all-round performance to garner the B title by 1-14 to 1-5 at St Brendan’s Park in Birr.
Shauna McDermott and team captain Mairéad Lohan were brilliant in defence against a Laois unit that had averaged 4-12 in its previous five games, while Ava Mulry and Hazel Kelly attacking also worked hard.
But Síofra Hession was the undisputed player of the match, racking up eight points, including a free from own 65m line.
A Mulry goal gave the Colm Kelly and Seán O’Brien’s outfit a 1-4 to 0-4 interval lead, having played into the wind, and they gradually pulled away after the restart thanks to Hession, Mulry and Kelly, Aoife Daly’s 55th minute goal for Laois being of the consolation variety.
Eimear Hassett finished with four pointed frees for Laois but Niall Cuddy’s team were unable to make sufficient inroads against a resolute Roscommon side that worked hard all over the field and possessed that bit more cutting edge too, to secure a memorable victory.
Tara Burke hit nine points as Kerry secured their own bit of history when enjoying victory at this level for the first time.
Joe Walsh’s squad got the upper hand on Down to win the C final by 0-12 to 0-8 at Clane GAA’s Conneff Park yesterday, having been made to work much harder by the Mourne girls than in their group meeting, which Kerry had won by 11 points.
It looked to be going the same way early on as despite playing into the breeze, Burke started a four-point run that was ended by Yasmin O’Brien with little over six minutes elapsed.
Down have illustrated their character throughout the season though and recovered to go in level at the interval 0-6 apiece after a glorious point from Niamh McGrath, who had earlier converted a free.
It had taken them until the 18th minute to score, via the stick of Tara O’Neill, but they were the more threatening unit in the second quarter, Amy Morgan and Sophie McGrath also raising white flags, while Amy O’Loughlin and Shannon Collins, with an outstanding point, were Kerry’s other scorers.
It was just too hard for David Coffey’s valiant unit to make sufficient inroads into the elements in the second half however, and with Burke unerring from placed balls as she contributed all six of her side’s second-half scores, that was enough to ensure victory for the green and gold.