Corn Uan Uladh final – Ulster senior camogie final
Sunday 14th January 11am in Ballymena
Cross and Passion Ballycastle v St Louis Ballymena
When the Ulster schools started camogie competition back in the mid 1940s the game was strongest in Antrim with the county winning their first three All-Ireland senior titles 1945-7.
That was reflected in the early years of Corn Uan Uladh with Cross and Passion winning the 1945 competition and then St Louis Ballymena taking five of the next six titles.
That 1951 success was Ballymena’s last appearance in a final, until before Christmas they booked their spot in tomorrow’s (SUNDAY’s) decider with a 4-1 to 0-3 win over St Patrick’s Maghera.
Indeed Cross and Passion, apart from two appearances and one title in the 1960s, hadn’t much to shout about either as firstly, Derry, then Armagh and Down schools took over with the last three decades seeing Maghera and St Mary’s Magherafelt sharing out 27 titles between them.
CPC over the past decade or more however has been chipping away at that duopoly and secured titles in 2008 and last season from eight final appearances. A dominance of the under-age scene over the past few years meant that they have been strong favourites to retain their title.
Collecting their third successive Corn Eimhear at Halloween has only underpinned their credentials while they have coasted through all their senior championship games to date, a 9-15 to 0-1 semi-final win over Magherafelt an unsurprising scoreline.
They have tremendous scoring potential in Roisin McCormick, Maeve Kelly, Dearbhaill McGill and Charley McCarry while the likes of Finvola McVeigh, Catherine McShane and Bronagh McKeague provide a strong barrier at half-back. Indeed overall they are a very experienced team made up exclusively of Sixth Formers.
St Louis, as a school, are in a similar situation to where CPC were a few years ago and they have overcome a huge psychological barrier to reach the final. In truth they could have won their semi-final with Maghera much easier than the final scoreline, although they did lose key forward Aine Devlin to injury after just 25 minutes.
They responded very well though with Mary McKillen and Maura Downey (from a penalty) hitting their third and fourth goals before half-time. The second half, by and large, was a pedestrian affair with Maghera never looking likely to break through for scores to change things.
Eilish Kearns, Kathryn Mullan and Amy Boyle were very strong at the back, but the attack, some of whom are very young, really needed Devlin’s experience to engineer openings.
It is difficult seeing the St Louis attack penetrating CPC’s defence often enough to cause any real problems – and appearing in the final for the first time they really need first half goals to trouble Ballycastle and also convince themselves that they have a chance of bridging the gap to 1951.
General opinion favours Ballycastle’s strong attacking options to impose themselves on the game early on and put St Louis on the back foot. But a final appearance in itself is another step forward for Ballymena.
It also reflects a trend in under-age camogie in the province with Antrim dominating affairs. There could well be future final meetings between the pair.
Cross and Passion : Aoife McGowan, Catie McCaughan, Katie Lynn, Aoife O’Mullan, Bronagh McKeague, Catherine McShane, Finvola McVeigh, Roisin McCormick, Maeve Kelly, Anna Connolly, Kirsty McKendry, Méadbh McCormick, Dearbhail McGill, Charley McCarry, Carla Mc Garry.
Subs: Rebecca Hargan, Roisin Cummings, Emer O’Neill, Caitlin Kelly, Niamh Doherty, Aoife Toner, Aoife McClafferty, Ciara Mathers, Katie Laverty, Ciara Laverty, Maria Bakewell.
St Louis : Aine Graham, Laura McAleese, Eilis Kearns, Kathryn Mullan, Cameron McGaughey, Fiona Hills, Caitlin Martin, Amy Boyle, Maura Downey, Caitlin Crawford, Kimberley Burke, Aine Devlin, Erin Traynor, Aimee Traynor, Shannon Darragh
Subs : Caoimhe Molloy, Bridget Delargy, Annie McGilligan, Eimear McMullan, Naya McNeill, Eva McNeill, Kirsten Edgar, Bronagh Laverty, Mary McKillen, Maeve Henry, Aimee Johnson, Niamh Callan, Caitlin McGaughey