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By Niamh Archibald

From Park Esler


Katie McAuley was the star player hitting 1-8 as Derry quashed Antrim’s hopes of back to back Ulster titles on Saturday.


Both sides started brightly with Derry‘s Katie McAuley and Antrim’s Emma McMullan trading points.  


Antrim began to dominate proceedings aided by the wind and Michela Convery capped an excellent piece of individual skill with a long range point.


Antrim looked threating every time they attacked making use of fast ground hurling, the Derry defence struggling to contain Emma McMullan and she added to her first- half tally with two more points.


Shannon Graham and Aisling Jackson, in her first game back after a cruciate injury which kept her out for 18 months, pulled the strings for Antrim, as they pulled ahead with Convery and Graham slotting over a point a piece.


It was Antrim who struck first, Emma McMullan slotting home from close range after Grace McMullan struck a low ball across the square.


Derry responded in style as five minutes later McAuley finished a fine run by firing past Antrim ‘keeper Chrisie Doherty. Sinead Cassidy pointed after a fine pass from Grainne McGoldrick found her in space.


It was Antrim who narrowly held the lead at half-time with one point separating the sides.


Derry came out rejuvenated in the second-half taking the game to Antrim. Katrina O’Kane levelled things up with a fine point, after catching the ball on the bounce she turned her marker before firing over the bar.


Derry then enjoyed a purple patch with McAuley causing the Antrim defence problems. The Derry management then changed things up replacing the entire half-forward line. The tactic paid off as Mary O’Kane, Attracta McPeake and Breige Convery all got on the scoresheet.


It was perhaps Convery who made the most telling contribution as her high ball into the square found its way into the back of the Antrim net.


Emma McMullan once again got Antrim back into the game as she slotted home from close range and Antrim substitute Charlene Hamill could have reduced the deficit to four but a coolly struck chip crept agonisingly over the bar.


Spurred on by the threat that Antrim could get back into the game Derry pressed forward feeding McAuley at every opportunity and she responded every time.


Derry manager Danny McGrellis was thrilled with his side’s performance saying: “”I thought the girls showed great character to come back, we knew it was going to be tough against the wind and it was always likely that Antrim would be ahead at half-time. It was just a matter of keeping ourselves in the game. Antrim pushed us all the way we knew that we wouldn’t have it easy as they wouldn’t want to give up their title without a fight, I’m just glad that my girls showed the determination to push on for the win.””


McGrellis believes that it was a mixture of his side’s mental strength and the depth of his panel that saw Derry seal victory.


“”It was a real team performance. We knew the strength that we have on the bench and that showed when we were able to

our half-forward line; all the girls that were brought on registered a score.


“”This side is mentally tough and sides like that are hard to beat because they don’t like losing,”” said McGrellis.


While he was full of praise for Katie McAuley he was keen to point out that she benefited from the great play around her: “”Katie was in great form, we knew that if we fed her the ball she wouldn’t let us down. She would be the first to say that her game and scores are a reflection of how well the rest of the team are performing. We have to have the people feeding her the ball and remaining strong in defence to give her that platform.


“”Katie should be very proud of her performance because we are. In fact all the girls should take pride in what they achieved because we are proud of each of them. I don’t know if the girls appre the confidence we have in them,”” McGrellis added.


Antrim captain Kelly Maybin was disappointed with the result but was proud of her team’s performance believing that they more than matched Derry at times.


“”We were bitterly disappointed to lose the game. In the first half we played some of the most outstanding camogie I’ve seen us play all season and were all over Derry. Unfortunately we didn’t sustain it into the second- half and let them back into it again. Fair play to them they turned it round to win the match. We won’t be dwelling too much on our defeat, we have the Laois match to focus on now and we’re determined to win that,”” she said.


Tyrone secured back to back Ulster titles in emphatic style on Saturday as they overcame Monaghan 6:14 to 0:03.


The opening exchanges were a tense affair which saw Monaghan miss three opportunities to take the upper-hand and Susan McCann punished them by slotting home from close range.


Tyrone began to dominate the possession and converted some excellent scores as the Monaghan defence struggled to come to grips with the pace of Tyrone’s forward line.


Susan MaCann and Shauna Jordan dictated the forward play, while Aisling O’Neill pulled the strings in midfield as Tyrone pushed on for victory.


Monaghan got the opening two scores of the second-half and continued to fight until the end of the match determined to do themselves proud but in the end it was Tyrone’s firepower up front that proved to be the difference.


Tyrone Manager Breanin Brunton believes that Tyrone have benefited from moving up to Division 4: “”I think the fact we’ve been playing against opposition who are stronger than us has helped us to improve and progress as a team. Monaghan kept going to the end and they deserve full credit for that.


“”I think the first fifteen minutes decided the outcome of the game, they had the chance to go ahead but didn’t take it and we got a lucky goal. I think the goals really killed the game off,”” he added.


Monaghan’s Gerladine Clarke feels that they should use Tyrone as their benchmark: “”Full credit to Tyrone they thoroughly deserved the win, the improvement that they have shown is second to none and they are definitely the benchmark we’re using.””


Although she was proud of her players she was disappointed saying: “”I don’t think the girls performed the way I know they can and we’re disappointed in that but we’re happy with the fighting spirit the girls showed, maybe that was the self-belief we instilled in them before the game.””



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