Ulster Under 16 Camogie Championship :
Antrim 6-9 Down 5-2
THERE were goals galore in this Ulster under 16 championship semi-final in Tír na nÓg, four in the opening quarter, another three before the break and then four in the third quarter.
However by the second water-break, Antrim had pulled clear of a strong challenge from Down and when the dust had eventually settled the Saffrons had eased into the final with ten points to spare.
The opening half in particular underlined the lack of match practice and sharpness in both squads with defences opened too easily and goals there for the taking. Of course it made for an entertaining game overall – pity the only people to see it were parents who drove the girls to the pitch.
It took Antrim eight minutes to get their first score, an excellent Niamh Graham point from the right wing to equalise Ciara Doran’s pointed 45 after three minutes.
After that we had goals. First of all Ellen Shields opened up the Antrim defence and found Eimear McCarthy who turned her marker and found the net.
Barely a minute later and Ellie McAteer’s long delivery from defence found Bróna Magill who crossed for Cerys O’Neill to level for the Saffrons.
On 13 minutes Ciara Fitzsimons burst through the middle and her clever hand-passed finish put Down ahead once more. Although Niamh Neeson turned and fired over an excellent point in response, McCarthy punished sloppy finishing with her second goal at the other end to leave it 3-1 to 1-2 at the water-break.
The water rejuvenated Antrim and in the five minutes after it, Antrim burst into action with goals from Síne Woodhouse and Bróna Magill and then points from Woodhouse and Neeson.
Down slowed the progress with another fine solo goal from Fitzsimons, but Evanne Martin’s point in injury time left Antrim leading by 3-5 to 4-1.
Fitzsimons again found the net on the re-start to put Down ahead, but the game was turned on its head over the next 12 minutes by half-time substitute Monique O’Boyle. The Cushendall forward mishit her first possession and it was smothered by Edel Stewart, but in the 38th minute another opportunity came her way and she kicked it over the line.
Two minutes late Síne Woodhouse’s shot was parried and O’Boyle swept it to the net and she completed her hat-trick in the 44th minute with Evanne Martin adding a point to put Antrim in command of the tie 6-6 to 5-1.
The home side tightened up at the back for the final quarter as Down pressed for scores to get back into contention. Antrim relied on quick counter attacks for scores of their own and Martin, Woodhouse and Neeson added to their totals while a point from Fitzsimons came too late to save the visitors.
There is no doubt that both teams improved as the game wore on. Antrim worked harder at stringing passes together in contrast to Down who were over reliant on the excellent Ciara Fitzsimons although an injury to centre-half back Ciara Doran and the consequent re-organisation did not help the visitors.
The Saffron defence was at sea for periods during the first half but was much better during the second half hour and the direct approach of Monique O’Boyle certainly added to their attack.
Antrim : Caitie Connolly, Emily McGurk, Bríd Magill, Ella McAteer, Sarah Fyfe, Lára Haughey, Faye McIntosh, Bróna Magill (1-0), Niamh Neeson (0-3), Síne Woodhouse (1-2), Evanne Martin (0-3), Aisling Donnelly, Roseanne Mulholland, Niamh Graham (0-1), Cerys O’Neill (1-0).
Subs : Broghan Crossan for E McGurk (17), Monique O’Boyle (3-0) for R Mulholland (HT), Elen McIntosh for A Donnelly (41).
Down : Edel Stewart, Caoimhe Sharkey, Claire Morgan, Úna Keenan, Tara O’Neill, Ciara Doran (0-1 free), Orla Dempster, Sophia McGrath, Lily McKee, Grace Sloan, Ellen Shields, Aoife Doyle, Eimear McCarthy (2-0), Ciara Fitzsimons (3-1), Niamh McGrath.
Subs : Niamh O’Reilly for G Sloan (15), Áine Breen for C Sharkey (21), Amy Morgan for N McGrath (32), Chloe Savage for A Doyle (42), Orlaith Sharkey for C Doran (50).
Referee : Michael Quigg (Derry).