Fire Stop & Seal Antrim Senior camogie championship
Ballycastle 2-7 Dunloy 0-12
by Seamus McAleenan
You have often heard it said that there is never a bad time to score a goal and also that goals win games. Both points were relevant in this very tight quarter-final of the Fire Stop and Seal Antrim Senior camogie championship in Loughgiel tonight.
Although Nicole O’Neill opened the scoring with a point from a placed ball, Ballycastle struck with an early goal from Niamh Donnelly, a score that kept them ahead until 13 minutes into the second half.
Later on, as the game entered injury time and Dunloy held a precarious 0-12 to 1-7 lead, Niamh O’Neill found herself in the right place to blast home Ballycastle’s second goal after a great run from Kathryn Donnelly was halted in the goal area.
There was time for Lauren Elliott to take the poc out – but for nothing more and Dunloy players dropped to their knees in disappointment as this was a game that simply got away from them.
Lauren Elliott pulled off two excellent stops in the first half-hour and was generally safe in goals while the Martin sisters played a lot of ball around the middle of the pitch. But come the break only Nicole O’Neill (0-4 and three of them from frees) had raised flags for the Cúchulainn’s. Indeed Nicole was to finish as her side’s only scorer from open play – Jacinta Dixon fired over three frees during the second half.
Ballycastle fared little better in the free-taking stakes until Caoimhe Wright took over, but generally either team could have had a comfortable interval lead had they taken their chances from placed balls.
Emma Connor, Cliodhna Donnelly and Bronagh McKeague had excellent games for the winners in defence, while Aine Donnelly picked up a lot of ball in open space up front. However overall it was an evening in which both defences controlled the respective forward lines.
After Niamh Donnelly had struck that early Ballycastle goal, Nicole O’Neill drew the teams level at 0-3 to 1-0 after 14 minutes.
The Donnelly sisters, Áine and Niamh, popped over Ballycastle points during the second quarter before Nicole O’Neill’s 45 was cancelled by a free from Caoimhe Wright close to the break.
Nicole O’Neill pointed four times during the third quarter, twice from open play and twice from frees with only a Caoimhe Wright pointed free in reply.
With Dunloy now a point ahead, the teams exchanged points up until close to the end when Jacinta Dixon’s third free gave her side a two points lead.
It looked as if Dunloy could close out the game at this stage, but Emma Connor took a high catch on the goal-line and Bronagh McKeague cleared another dangerous ball, while Nicole O’Neill’s effort from distance fell short.
Those were to prove costly misses with Kathryn Donnelly bursting through from midfield fired in a shot that was saved and partly cleared, but in the ensuing scramble the ball broke to Niamh O’Neill in the left corner and she drilled it low to the Dunloy net to book her team a place in the semi-final against Portglenone.
Ballycastle: Aoife McGowan, Maria Donnelly, Orla Donnelly, Bronagh McKeague, Catherine McShane, Emma Connor, Cliodhna Donnelly, Niamh O’Neill 1-0, Michaela Beattie, Kathryn Donnelly, Niamh Donnelly 1-1, Emma Laverty, Aine Donnelly 0-1, Caoimhe Wright 0-5 frees, Maeve Kelly.
Dunloy : Lauren Elliott, Katherine Mullan, Leanne Reid, Danielle Quinn, Kathryn Boyle, Aileen Martin, Caoimhe Conlan, Sinead Martin, Nicole O’Neill 0-9, 0-5 frees, Mary Martin, Erin Elliott, Kirstin Ingram, Michaela Elliott, Jacinta Dixon 0-3 frees, Chloe Drain
Referee: Ryan O’Reilly (Brídíní Óga)