Antrim Senior Championship Semi-Finals:
Ballycastle 1-8 Dunloy 1-6
Seamus McAleenan reports from Slemish Park, Ballymena
AMAZINGLY Ballycastle failed to score for the entire second half – and still won this engrossing Antrim senior semi-final in Ballymena on Saturday evening.
Their defence was brilliant throughout, holding Dunloy to just two points for the opening 45 minutes. Catherine McShane, Kathryn Donnelly, Enya McShane and Niamh Donnelly as sweeper were all outstanding in bringing McQuillan’s through to their fourth final in six seasons.
But what really saw them over the line was that opening half hour that put Dunloy on the back foot and had them turn over with a nine points’ lead, 1-8 to 0-1.
Dunloy scored the opening point, an excellent effort from Michaela Elliott from right on the side line. But from then on it was all Ballycastle with Caoimhe Wright and Maeve Kelly icing the cake with some wonderful scoring as the Town took control.
Wright pointed frees in the 4th, 7th and 13th minutes, none of them easy scores, and she added another brilliantly from play in the 10th minute.
The three scores before the water break were breath-taking, two from Kelly with Wright taking her fifth point in the 16th minute.
Scoring slowed during the second quarter with just Caoimhe Wright’s speculative effort from a long way out going all the way to the Dunloy net as several players contested it on the edge of the goal area.
She added a free in first half injury time to cap a wonderful first half during which only one effort from the Town girls went wide of the mark.
They picked up where they left off during the third quarter to maintain the pressure on their opponents, but by now the Dunloy defence was beginning to get to grips with the situation, Eilis Kearns magnificent at full-back and Chloe Drain, Kathryn Mullan and Caoimhe Molloy all growing in stature as the half progressed.
Ballycastle hit four wides, Dunloy three before Aileen McManus blasted over in the 13th minute.
But Ballycastle still looked good at the second water break, 1-8 to 0-2 ahead. However their failure to add to their total gave Dunloy hope. Caoimhe Molloy pointed, sub Bronach Magill added another.
Aileen McManus then pointed a free and it was 1-8 to 0-5. Another point from Aine Magill but still no danger to Ballycastle’s progress.
Then a goal from a scramble just in front of Becky Ellis and the margin was two points as the game entered four minutes of added time. There was a scare or two alright, but the Ballycastle defence held out to reach their second successive decider.
Ballycastle : Becky Ellis, Niamh Ann Donnelly, Catherine McShane, Enya McShane, Orla Donnelly, Kathryn Donnelly, Emma Laverty, Meabh O’Neill, Niamh Donnelly, Aine Donnelly, Caoimhe Wright 1-6, 0-4 frees, Nuala Devlin, Maeve Kelly 0-2, Emma Connor, Niamh O’Neill
Subs : Riana McBride for N O’Neill, Tara O’Neill for E Connor, Cliodhna Donnelly for N Devlin
Dunloy : Aimee Scott, Eimear McMullan, Eilis Kearns, Chloe Drain, Dearbhail Magill, Caoimhe Conlon, Katie Laverty, Nicole O’Neill, Erin Elliott, Aine Magill 1-1, Michaela Elliott 0-1, Caoimhe Molloy 0-1 free, Erin Traynor, Aileen McManus 0-2, Caitlin Crawford
Subs : Mary Martin for C Crawford, Bronach Magill 0-1 for E Traynor
Referee : Joe Baldwin