Cuchullains grab the honours

Antrim Senior Camogie Championship

Ballycastle 1-08 Dunloy 2-14

By Paul McLean

Work rate, hunger and aggression were the key in Dunloy’s victory over Ballycastle in their opening game of the 2020 Antrim Camogie Championship as the avenged last years smash and grab defeat in the same venue.

A goal in the second half by Sinead McMullan after the full forward forced the ball over the line in a goal line scramble set the Cuchullian’s girls on their way to a well deserved victory and typified their desire to win on the night.

The first half was very much nip and tuck with each team fighting for every single ball in and around the middle of the park. Dunloy it was who had the first two scoring chances, but these were both put wide by Nicole O’Neill and Aine Magill.

Player of the match Aine Magill in action against Ballycastle’s Maebh O’Neill

Ballycastle would open the scoring with a free by Caoimhe Wright, but this was short lived as Nicole O’Neill split the posts for her first score of the day to level the game up.

A goal would be massive in this game and it was the home side who got it. A short effort for a point dropped into the Dunloy box which was not dealt with. The loose ball rolled across the box and was forced home by Maeve Kelly to give the home side a crucial lead.

However, this only spurred Dunloy on as they started to dominate in the middle areas of the pitch. Two points in a row from play by Nicole O’Neill and Aine Magill reduced the lead to one point and pass the momentum onto Dunloy but Ballycastle had their keeper Becky Ellis to thank as she pulled off two good saves to deny the Dunloy girls.

Firstly, Michaela Elliott’s shot was forced away but only into the path of Caitlin but her well struck ground shot was also turned away. The ball bounced around the box to be picked up and hooked over the bar by Michaela Elliott.

Another Nicole O’Neill free gave Dunloy the lead but a succession of frees given away presented the home side to level the game up which Caoimhe Wright duly did.

Again, it was the stick of the reliable Nicole O’Neill that gave Dunloy back the lead right up onto half time. A lead that the away side fully deserved.

Maeve Kelly was much more effective when she moved back out to midfield in the second half

The second half started with Ballycastle missing two very scorable frees that would have given them the lead. Twice they had scorable chances, but both were struck inches to the right and only gave Dunloy a jolt they needed to get going in the second half.

With so much hard work going on all over the pitch from the visitors it was summed up in full forward Sinead McMullan’s willingness to get on the end of the ball no matter the harm to herself.  Full back Catherine McShane and herself were having a great tussle throughout the game with no quarter given by each player but it was Michaela Elliott’s shot that landed short and forced onto the box by the keeper where McMullan dove into the box and over the line.

A massive goal for Dunloy and one that gave them the advance for the remainder of the game.

Caoimhe Wright and Niamh Donnelly responded with frees after Maeve Kelly had been fouled but Dunloy kept wiping the scores out each time. The impressive Aine Magill picked up another score for herself with an individual effort from play.

Dunloy’s Caoimhe Molloy gets away from Ballycastle’s Emma Laverty during Tuesday evening’s Senior Camogie Chamionship opener at Pairc MacUílín

Two more scores from play by captain Nicole O’Neill kept the Dunloy girls at arm’s length despite two scores from frees for the home side by Caoimhe Wright and Niamh Donnelly.

Ballycastle moved Maeve Kelly further out from full forward where she started to see more of the ball. Her direct running and attacking drew fouls but Ballycastle did not capitalise on them and were dropping too many short or else wide.

Dunloy on the other hand where happy to sit back and absorb this pressure and their long clearances where finding Caoimhe Molloy and Erin Elliott who in turn were able to release Aine Magill who was really finding her feet at Senior level.

Three points in a row from Nicole O’Neill frees summed this pressure relief up as each time Ballycastle would peg Dunloy back the visitors would respond in kind.

With time near up young Aine Magill got her just rewards as she pulled on a loose ball on the edge of the square into the net and put the contest to bed.

Ballycastle battled well for the full hour but crucially missed five frees at scoring chances over the hour that did cost them. In defence Catherine McShane had a great hour and was well supported by Kathryn Donnelly who battled hard. Up front Maeve Kelly only got going in the second half when space started to open, but she did not have enough support around her.

For Dunloy their entire back line had good games especially the half back line of Dearbhaill Magill, Caoimhe Conlon and Katie Laverty. Midfield was well won by Erin Elliott and Nicole O’Neill who put in great shifts and up front Aine Magill and Caoimhe Molloy went through serious work.

Nicole O’Neill put in another massive shift for Dunloy

Ballycastle

B Ellis, Niamh Ann Donnelly, C McShane, B McCaughan, M O’Neill, K Donnelly, Enya McShane, M Kelly (1-02), Emma Laverty, N Donnelly (0-02), Caoimhe Wright (0-04), A Donnelly, N Devlin, C Donnelly, R McBride

Dunloy

A Scott, E McMullan, E Kearns, C Drain, D Magill, C Conlon, K Laverty, E Elliott, N O’Neill (0-10), A Magill (1-03), A McManus, C Molloy, C Crawford, S McMullan (1-00) , M Elliott(0-01)

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