Corn Uan Uladh final
Cross & Passion Ballycastle 3-8 St Louis Ballymena 0-3
IN THE end Cross and Passion Ballycastle completed their three-in-a-row of Ulster senior titles in Ballymena on Saturday morning with relative comfort to retain Corn Uan Uladh, but they were pushed all the way by St Louis Ballymena in an intense game of camogie.
Ballycastle’s greater experience of finals at this level and their success rate through their school careers meant that they were able to weather the Ballymena storm and come out the other end.
Defence was solid throughout with Katie Laverty and Enya McShane particularly prominent. Roisin McCormick and Maeve Kelly were well shepherded throughout by the hard work of Maura Downey and Caoimhe Molloy, but others picked up the slack to keep St Louis under plenty of pressure.
Four points from Riana McBride in the six minutes before the break opened a gap between the teams, but in the second half it was the decisive running of Ciara Laverty that created the goals to put CPC in the clear.
The Ballymena defence was heroic, particularly Eimhear McMullan and Bronagh Laverty, while Áine Graham brought off a number of stunning saves in the opening half. However in a game where they came in as underdogs they couldn’t afford to miss openings. And they did during both halves.
Bronagh Laverty brought off a brilliant block on Roisin McCormick in the opening minute to set the tone for the first half and after 27 minutes it was no surprise that the teams were locked on 0-2 each, with excellent defence from both schools.
Then Anna Connolly shot through the centre to release Riana McBride. She went for goal, but somehow Áine Graham turned it over for a point. Over the next three minutes, McBride picked up three possessions and delivered three more points for her side to turn around with a 0-6 to 0-2 lead.
Immediately on the re-start Ciara Laverty’s run released Charley McCarry for a point and Laverty then created the opening that saw Áine Magill hit the first goal of the tie in the 38th minute.
If that score did not close the door on St Louis who continued to hit confidence-sapping wides, then Ciara Laverty’s solo effort in the 41st minute did.
Maura Downey popped over a Ballymena free in reply. Their defence continued to hold firm, but so did Ballycastle’s and there were only two further scores, Maeve Kelly picking up a half-clearance in the 58th minute and placing Charley McCarry for a low finish, while Riana McBride reminded everyone of her earlier contribution by posting a lovely point a minute from time.
Ballycastle now head to Connacht for the All-Ireland semi-final on the 9th February while St Louis will lick their wounds and look to the future for a breakthrough win.
The Cross & Passion team who beat St Louis in the Corn Uan Uladh final in Ballymena. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine
Cross and Passion : S McKillop, A McClafferty, M McGarry, E McShane, A O’Mullan, M O’Neill, K Laverty, M Kelly, C Laverty (1-0), A Magill (1-0), R McCormick capt (0-1), A Connolly, A Toner, C McCarry (1-2), R McBride (0-5)
Subs : A Lynn for A McCafferty (45), C McGarry for A Toner (46).
St Louis : A Graham capt, L McAleese, E Kearns, B Delargy, B Laverty, E McMullan, K Mullan, C Molloy, M Downey (0-1 free), E McAreevey, K Burke, S Darragh, M McKillen (0-1), E Traynor (0-1), C Crawford
Subs : C McGaughey for S Darragh (43), C Martin for L McAleese (55)
Referee : Owen Elliott
Pics by Sean Paul McKillop