Antrim Senior championship
Ballycastle 1-11 Dunloy 0-13
Maeve Kelly conjured up a bit of magic to help Ballycastle snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in Tuesday evening’s Antrim Senior Camogie Championship opener against Dunloy at Pairc MacUilin. With Dunloy leading by two points with just four minute of normal time Kelly went down with cramp after winning a free, and play was held up for over three minutes. When the free was eventually taken Caoimhe Wright went for goal but her shot was turned around the post, and when the resultant 45 was also missed things looked bleak for the home side. Things got even worse when Dunloy went back up the field and Aileen McManus sent over a free to put her team three ahead, two minutes into added time. That was that, or so it seemed, but in the next attack the ball was sent in around the Dunloy square where Kelly had been moved due to her earlier camp. However she was still fit enough to win possession and when she rounded the Dunloy defence to hammer in a brilliant goal the Town were back on terms.
There was still time for a winning score and after the puck-out was returned into the danger area Kelly won possession again and was foulded going through on goal. Up stepped team captain Naimh Donnelly to send the ball over the bar to seal a win that minutes earlier appeared to be beyond them.
Dunloy must be kicking themselves for letting this one slip, for they dominated the second half terratorially and were good value for their two point lead entering injury time. However they failed to put Ballycastle away, partly because of wayward shooting and partly because of the brilliance of Ballycastle goalkeeper Danielle McMichael and her full back line.
Dunloy went into the game as slight favourites but Ballycastle kept in touch during the opening half with four frees from Caoimhe Wright while at the other end Nicole O’Neill converted three placed balls and added one from play to edge her side 0-6 to 0-5 ahead at the change of ends.
Maeve Kelly and Caoimhe Wright delivered the knock-out blows with key scores, but at the back they were also pretty solid with Catherine McShane, Niamh Donnelly and Nuala Devlin standing out. Both Danielle McMichael and her opposite number Lauren Elliott pulled off brilliant saves.
In hindsight it is easy to say that Dunloy overly depended on their two scorers, but at the same time they were close to taking the spoils with Erin Traynor and Chloe Drain turning in good shifts.
There was a flurry of scores in the opening ten minutes of the second half, three more frees from Caoimhe Wright with two apiece for Nicole O’Neill and dangerous full-forward Aileen McManus and the teams were locked on 0-10 each.
Over the next 15 minutes however Dunloy edged ahead but they couldn’t quite see the game out. Maeve Kelly, who had picked up an injury at midfield, had to move into full-forward. But it was a move that paid off as she turned the game with two late plays.
Next week Ballycastle can seal a semi-final spot as group winners when they travel down to the Shaw’s Road to take on Rossa.
Ballycastle : Danielle McMichael, Niamh Anne Donnelly, Catherine McShane, Bronagh McCaughan, Enya McShane, Niamh Donnelly 0-1 free, Bronagh McKeague, Maeve Kelly 1-2, Emma Laverty, Maria Bakewell, Cliodhna Donnelly, Nuala Devlin, Caoimhe Wright 0-7, 0-6 frees, Aine Donnelly 0-1, Tara O’Neill
Subs used : Maria Donnelly, Riana McBride and Niamh O’Neill
Dunloy : Lauren Elliott, Annie Laverty, Chloe Drain, Katherine Mullan, Eilish Kearns, Katie Laverty, Shannon Woulahan, Sinead Martin, Caoimhe Conlon, Caoimhe Molloy, Nicole O’Neill 0-8, 0-6 frees, Kathryn Boyle, Michaela Elliott, Aileen McManus 0-5, 0-1 free, Erin Elliott.
Subs used : Caitlin Crawford and Erin Traynor
Referee – Ryan O’Reilly (Con Magees)