Shamrocks make it six in a row
Antrim Senior championship final
Loughgiel 2-10 Ballycastle 1-9
IT is a long time since Loughgiel got as stern a test as they did on Saturday afternoon in an Antrim championship game. But the Shamrocks were still able to ride the Ballycastle storm and stretch their run to a sixth successive senior crown.
Ballycastle probably produced their best performance of the season, bringing huge intensity to the clash and not allowing their opponents to settle or open up play in the forward line. That statement of intent was made right from the throw-in with Nuala Devlin and Áine Donnelly winning frees in the opening 90 seconds and Caoimhe Wright supplied the points.
Devlin, and Rianna McBride in the other corner, seriously troubled Loughgiel with their pace in the opening half, while the deployment of Tara O’Neill as a third midfielder backed up the tigerish work of Maeve Kelly and Emma Laverty to close down the game.
However Maeve Connolly, left regularly without a marker, picked up a lot of ball at centre-half back for the winners and her deliveries to the wings helped release her forwards for key scores especially during the first half.
During the second half, Loughgiel registered just two points, probably their lowest return for 30 plus minutes in quite some time and that is a huge credit to the Ballycastle defence and the excellent Danielle McMichael.
After Wright’s opening points for Ballycastle, Loughgiel hit back with scores from Ciara Laverty and Roisin McCormick before Caitrin Dobbin found an opening and cracked home her first goal in the fifth minute.
Although Áine Donnelly spun well for Ballycastle’s third point, Emma McMullan pointed twice from play and twice from frees to make it 2-6 to 0-3 after 18 minutes and the game seemed to be going to script.
That was until Nuala Devlin picked up a free from Niamh Donnelly in the corner and cut across to shoot a goal for the Town. However Loughgiel came back with a couple of points before Maeve Connolly released Caitrin Dobbin with a huge clearance into the corner and the light-footed winger raced through for her second goal and an interval advantage of 2-8 to 1-4.
Niamh Donnelly hit a point from a free on the re-start, the only score of the third quarter and at the midway point of the half Anna Connolly and Emma McMullan clipped over two fine points – but those were Loughgiel’s final scores.
Caoimhe Wright added two frees at the other end before Cliodhna Donnelly was taken down for a penalty. Sister Niamh took it, but her shoulder high shot was turned over for a point by Megan Coyle.
The challengers exerted plenty of pressure over the final minutes but could only add another Niamh Donnelly free as Loughgiel saw the game out for their 22nd title.
Loughgiel : Megan Coyle, Chloe Higgins, Charlene Campbell, Maria Lynn, Clare McKillop, Maeve Connolly, Shauna Devlin, Amy Boyle, Lucia McNaughton, Emma McMullan 0-6, 0-3 frees, Anna Connolly 0-1, Caitrin Dobbin 2-1, Ciara Laverty 0-1, Christine Laverty, Roisin McCormick 0-1.
Ballycastle : Danielle McMichael, Niamh Anne Donnelly, Catherine McShane, Bronagh McCaughan, Enya McShane, Niamh Donnelly 0-3, 2 frees, 1 pen, Bronagh McKeague, Maeve Kelly, Emma Laverty, Maria Bakewell, Tara O’Neill, Caoimhe Wright 0-5 frees, Nuala Devlin 1-0, Aine Donnelly 0-1, Rianna McBride.
Sub : Cliodhna Donnelly for M Bakewell (24)
Referee : Vincent Boyle (Dunloy)
Pictures from Sean Paul McKillop
Go raibh maith agat