Antrim are All Ireland Champions again!
All-Ireland Minor championship final
Antrim 1-11 Kildare 2-5
Things looked bleak for Antrim at half-time in Saturday’s All-Ireland Minor championship final in Inniskeen; no noticeable wind factor and down by 2-5 to 0-4 having been outplayed by a hungry Kildare side for the opening half.
Antrim however proceeded to turn the whole game on its head, clawed their way back by keeping Kildare scoreless for the duration of the second half and nailed only their second ever title at this level with three late points from the Loughgiel trio of Roisin McCormick, Charley McCarry and Kirsty McKendry.
Roisin McCormick’s introduction to midfield as a substitute at half-time changed the dynamic of the game. She fired over three 45m frees during the third quarter at a time when the Saffrons couldn’t find scores and her bursts through the centre kept Kildare’s defence under constant pressure.
Indeed three second half subs contributed 1-5 to the game and it was something manager Sean Paul McKillop touched on at the end.
"Through the competition, we have been introducing substitutes to make an impact on the game and today was no exception.
"We were poor in the first half, listless and second to nearly every ball. The girls who came in put the pressure firmly on Kildare, who in fairness didn’t give up their lead easily. But we pressed on until we got level and then fired the late points to take the title.
"We have got the name of a being a second half team, but it has always been about using the panel and bringing in players who can make a difference. It’s a big win for us.”
Despite Emily Falloon racing through for the opening point inside 25 seconds, Antrim were caught cold by Kildare’s first attack that delivered a goal for Caoimhe Maher after Lea Sutton’s initial effort was well saved by Caitriona Graham.
Graham, the Antrim captain, was in inspirational form during that opening half, but she and her full-back line were too often exposed by Kildare who withdrew their half-forwards to midfield to create a lot of space inside.
At the other end, Antrim were wasteful with six first quarter wides. They had pulled back to 1-0 to 0-3 after 7 minutes however and Kildare had only accumulated 1-2 when Méadhbh McCormick stabbed over their fourth point in the 22nd minute.
However the Lily Whites hit form between then and half-time, with their second goal from Caoimhe Shanahan in the 29th minute a little fortuitous after an awkward bounce in front of Graham.
Down by 2-5 to 0-4, Antrim responded with four points from 45m frees, the only scores of the third quarter, during which the Kildare goal lived dangerously on a few occasions.
Maeve Kelly then came on as sub in the 43rd minute and five minutes later she crashed home a goal to level the game at 2-5 to 1-8.
The next nine minutes were scoreless with again Antrim camped inside the Kildare half of the pitch. Eventually however Roisin McCormick raced through from the back of midfield to take a brilliant lead point and a minute later Charley McCarry flashed over another from the left corner.
Kildare pushed forward in search of a late goal and had a couple of frees that they dropped into the area. However Antrim now had the upper hand all over the pitch and broke in injury time for Cliodhna Donnelly to set up another sub Kirsty McKendry for a point.
Caitriona Graham along with the full-back line and Ellen Hynds kept Antrim’s effort going particularly during that difficult first half and were in charge after the break.
The difference between the first and second halves was like night and day, but shining out was the industry of Amy Boyle and Siobhan McKillop and all four subs made a big impact when introduced.
Antrim will now go into the Ulster championship in a fortnight’s time as clear favourites to retain their title, but they will not want a repeat of Saturday’s first half.
Player of the Match Award went to Siobhan mcKillop (Ruairí Óg)
Antrim : Caitriona Graham capt., Sian McNeill, Katie Lynn, Kirsty Laverty, Catherine McShane, Cliodhna Donnelly, Ellen Hynds, Amy Boyle, Caoimhe Conlon, Aine Devlin 0-2 frees, Siobhan McKillop, Emily Falloon 0-1, Caoimhe Wright 0-1, Méadhbh McCormick 0-1, Charley McCarry 0-1.
Subs : Róisín McCormick 0-4, 0-3 frees for C Conlon (ht), Maeve Kelly 1-0 for E Falloon (43), Áine Donnelly for Á Devlin (45), Kirsty McKendry 0-1 for M McCormick (55), Caoimhe McNeice, Méabh O’Neill, Finvola McVeigh, Rebecca Hargan, Bronagh Devlin, Anna Connolly, Torie Edgar.
Kildare : Aoife Morrisson, Lilly Evans, Sarah Cullen, Eimear Finn, Maria Doyle, Laoise Dunne, Aoife Fitzgerald, Sorcha Gilman, Tara Glynn, Caoimhe Sheils, Lea Sutton 0-3 frees, Holly Tynan 0-1, Caoimhe Shanahan 1-0, Emma Kielty capt. 0-1, Caoimhe Maher 1-0.
Referee : Philip McDonald (Cavan)