Antrim prevail in thriller
A nail biting Ulster Senior Camogie Final saw Antrim hold on for a deserved victory over a tenacious and battling Derry side at the Morgan Athletic Grounds, Saturday.
Though five points separated the teams at the final whistle there really was never a puck of the ball between these two sides who by their spirit and skill on the field more than showed that Camogie is truly alive and well in Ulster.
In the end it was that bit more guile and experience that helped Antrim over the line – guile in that their defence was rock solid all afternoon – and experience in that when it mattered most they put their chances away efficiently.
Derry made a good start with points from the lively Karen Kielt and Edelle Henry after five minutes.
They could have had a goal when Gemma McCullagh made a great run but saw full forward, Ellis ni Chaiside drop the pass under good defencive pressure.
Katie McAleese steadied Antrim nerves with a much needed first point on 11 minutes but they hadn’t much time to relax as Derry pilling on the pressure struck for a goal.
This time Kielt split the defence and passed to Chaiside who made no mistake this time around.
But Derry’s momentum was immediately squashed when Antrim grabbed a softish goal when a 40 yard free from captain Jane Adams went over the Derry’s keeper’s outstretched hand and into the back of the net
This left the minimum between the sides at the end of the first quarter with Derry rocked by the three pointer after opening so brightly.
Boosted by the goal, Antrim soon grabbed the lead and proceeded to dominate the next 10 minutes with points from Adams, Shannon Graham and Kerri O’Neill to take a 1-4 to 1-2 lead.
Things got worse for Derry soon after when lack of composure in the rearguard allowed Katie McAleese latch on to a rebound and fire home.
From a Derry perspective, the gap now was a worrying five points but they had a chance to redress the issue when awarded a penalty after Gemma McCullagh was dragged down.
Unfortunately, Kielt could only manage a point with her goal drive and Antrim finished strongly with a fine score from Graham in injury time to leave the half time score Antrim 2-5, Derry 1-3.
On the resumption, it was tight exchanges once more with the ball going up and down the field and both sides battling ferociously.
Derry, sticking with their task, reduced the deficit to three points with scores from lively sub Grainne McNicholl and a Karen Kielt free.
Antrim’s captain Jane Adams replied with a pointed free but then Derry’s hopes were charged when a speculative high ball from midfielder Breige Dougan saw the Antrim goalie missing the read and the sliotar landed in the back of the net.
With a quarter of an hour left to play Derry were back in it and now they trailed by just a point.
The next five minutes was hectic with both teams scrapping for every breaking ball and inch of space.
Antrim defenders Ashling Jackson and Emma Connelly were heroic in this segment, and indeed for the remainder, with Meabh McGoldrick and Katrina O’Kane also battling hard for Derry in their rearguard.
Then the 51st minute brought a vital strike and another hammer blow for Derry.
There defence coping better in the second period, faulted again when dithering in the full back line and unable to clear, Antrim sub, Eleanor Mallon found that inch of space and kicked home for a crucial goal.
Four points separated the sides anew.
Derry tried their utmost to get back on terms and kept pressing forward but shot three wides in quick succession.
They did bring it back to a three point game with a McGoldrick pointed 45′. But despite Derry bombarding the opposition’s goalmouth looking for an equaliser in the closing minutes, Antrim held their nerve with great resolve and cleared their lines time and again.
In injury time, Antrim again showed great composure when finding the target once more with good points from Kerri O’Neiil and Micheala Convery.
When it mattered most a better balanced Antrim held their nerve when under pressure and got the scores when needed most.
Kathleen Kielt, Katrina O’Kane, Shauna Murphy;
Shauneen Donaghy, Meabh McGoldrick 0-1 (45′), Jane Carey;
Breige Dougan 1-0 (Capt), Attracts McPeake 0-1;
Edelle Henry 0-1, Aileen McCusker, Maria Mooney;
Shauna Quinn, Eilis ni Chaiside 1-0, Karen Kielt 0-3 (2f, pen).
Subs: Grainne McNichol 0-1 for Henry, Grainne McGoldrick for Donaghy, Paula Bell for McCullagh.
Sarah Maguire, Ashling Jackson, Ashling McCall;
Sinead Laverty, Emma Connelly (vice capt), Collen Doherty;
Charlene Hamill 0-1, Rhona Torney;
Micheala Convery 0-1, Kerri O’Neill 0-2, Shannon Graham 0-2;
Katie McAleese 1-1, Jane Adams 1-2, 0-2f, (Capt), Louise McAleese.
Subs: Eleanor Mallon 1-0 for Torney, Cathy Carey for L. McAleese, Orlaith Ni hEara for K. McAleese; Roisin Boyle for Graham.
PRO Ulster Camogie Council
OCP Cumann Camogaiochta Uladh