Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Camogie Championship from Balllymena
Antrim 1-06 Derry 3-27
By Michael Costello
Almost an hour after the final whistle had sounded, Antrim players ,mentors and executive members stood in a huddle on the All Saints pitch hotly debating the issues which led up to this heavy defeat at the hands of Derry. Their very presence was proof of their joint determination not to walk away from their problems but rather to face them as a unit despite the inevitable recriminations that arise in times of stress and disappointment. Following a frustrating run of championship games this season, which included a one point and a couple of close two point defeats, the final straw for the Saffron squad was the withdrawal of a large number of players from today’s game due to impending senior club championship games on Tuesday and Wednesday night coming. This afternoon’s Antrim line-out included five debutants and with no substitutes available in addition, the senior players rightly felt aggrieved about the intransigence of their board in not putting back the championship games or in fact ever arranging them so close to an All-Ireland Championship game in the first place when the date was known months in advance. Assistant manager Joe Baldwin spoke of an “old school” mentality within Antrim camogie which disrespected the efforts of the senior squad players and left the Saffrons years behind in professional preparation for inter-county championship games. Manager Aidan McKeown praised the efforts of all those girls who had represented the county at senior level this year and urged them to use these experiences as a launching pad to a better season in 2018. Whatever impact this 2017 season has on Antrim preparations for next year, the single most significant factor to emerge from this season, and this game in particular, was the total dedication and commitment of the players representing the county and Antrim can be proud of them. Derry may have won this game at a canter but Antrim players and mentors have learned a lot about each other and one thing they have in abundance is courage.
Derry took control of the game from the throw-in with midfielders Aine McAllister and Karen Keilt in sparkling form and ran up a five point lead before Antrim responded with well taken points from Aine Devlin and Caoimhe McAleenan. Antrim players understandably struggled with a totally new and unfamiliar line-up and clearly hadn’t had time to work out a game plan. The debutants for Antrim at senior level consisted of Victoria Edgar, Kirsty Laverty and Eimhear McAleenan of Brídíní Óga and Fiona Hills and Lisa McGuckin of Dunloy and all gave a good account of themselves. The rest of the first half saw a rampant Derry run up ten more scores, including goals from Eilis Ní Chaiside and Eimear McGuigan with only a Caoimhe McAleenan point in response for the home side. Derry looked supremely confident with a half time lead of 2-14 to 0-03.
The second half saw a reshuffle from Antrim and for a short time they looked very impressive with Victoria Edgar smashing home a great goal just after the restart and Áine Devlin putting two frees over with supreme confidence. Goalkeeper Noeleen Cosgrove, Emily Falloon, Shannon Woulahan and Laoise McKenna in her first senior outing this year, were excellent for Antrim. Despite the efforts of the Saffrons, however, Derry took control again and ran up a steady series of points and a third goal from Eilis Ní Chaiside to put any chance of a comeback well beyond Antrim’s reach. Karen Kielt of Kilrea was in great scoring form for Derry and scored a total of 16 points (6f). Derry have now won this group with four wins and a draw while Antrim finished joint bottom with Wexford. Good luck to Derry in their Semi-Final against group 2 runners-up Meath on 20th August. Cork will play Kildare in the other semi-final.
Scorers -Antrim -V.Edgar 1-0 C.McAleenan 0-02 A.Devlin 0-04(3f)
Derry- K.Kielt 0-16 (6f ) A.McAllister 0-05(1f) E. Ní Chaiside2-0 D.O’Kane 0-02 A.Kelly 0-01 E. McGuigan 1-01 , M.McNicholl 0-02
Antrim Line-out -N.Cosgrove, K.Laverty, , F. Hills, L.McKenna, C.Patterson, N.McQuillan, S.Woulahan, E.Falloon, E.Costello, A.Devlin, O.O’Hara, L. McGuckin, V.Edgar, C.McAleenan, E. McAleenan.
Derry line-out- N. McQuillian, S. Donaghy, B.Ní Chaiside, R. Bradley, A. McCusker, A.Ní Chaiside, J. McGuickin, A.McAllister, K.Kielt, A.Quinn, E. Ní Chaiside, A.Kelly, D.O’Kane, E.McGuigan, M.McNicholl.