Antrim beat Meath to book a semi-final spot

Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate championship

Antrim 1-16 Meath 2-9

A FORTNIGHT ago in Inniskeen Antrim overcame Carlow by a margin of four points. On Saturday they were back in Inniskeen and won by four points, but the victory over 2017 champions Meath was a much more satisfying result.

This was a much improved performance from the Antrim girls, although their start was shaky enough with Jane Dolan placing Megan Thynne for a rather soft goal as early as the third minute. Indeed the Saffrons were at sea a little in that opening quarter and relied on Nicole O’Neill from placed balls to keep them in touch.

Antrim’s Maeve Kelly

However once the defence took control, the Antrim team-play improved and four points in a row just before half-time saw them move two points clear and they were able to maintain that gap during the third quarter and then strike for home with a superb goal from Maeve Kelly in the 48th minute.

Chloe Drain and Niamh Donnelly led the defence and the longer the game wore on the more in control they were with Amy Boyle, Caoimhe Conlon and Maeve Connolly settling well in support.

Up front Nicole O’Neill was the go-to player from the start with Maeve Kelly in a strong supporting role. Caitrin Dobbin was also a constant threat as was Roisin McCormick when the game opened out in the second half.

But the opening was shaky. Thynne’s goal just emphasised the dominance that Meath was exercising around the middle and half-forward. Their physicality, movement and first touch was better than Antrim although that physicality sometimes overstepped the mark and provided Nicole O’Neill with scoring opportunities.

The Dunloy forward fired over her team’s opening point from play just before the Meath goal and pointed from frees in the 10th and 14th minutes. Maeve Kelly added a fourth Antrim point and they went to the water break just two points in arrears.

Nicole O’Neill goes past her marker

Although O’Neill fired over a huge free from just outside the 65 metre line on the re-start, Amy Gaffney was causing problems for Meath in the corner and she won a free that Dolan converted. Gaffney should have hit a second goal for them soon after when she was put through but she pulled her shot wide.

After that let off, Antrim gradually began to get on top and that was reflected in scores for Caitrin Dobbin, Roisin McCormick and two frees from O’Neill. Indeed Dobbin finished off a great move with a shot to the top corner only for that score to be disallowed for an infringement.

So the Saffrons led by 0-9 to 1-4 at the change of ends and Maeve Kelly raced clear to add to that lead within a minute of the re-start.

However straight from the poc out Aoife Minogue hit a long ball into the edge of the Antrim area where Sinéad Hackett caught and fired to the net. Jane Dolan added a point and then was put through one-on-one with goalie Eimear Boyle. However the Loughgiel net-minder saved brilliantly and from the clearance Maeve Kelly levelled the game.

O’Neill added a free before the water break and one from play on the re-start before the 48th minute goal from Antrim that sent them into a semi-final on November 21st.

There did not seem to be a lot on when Maeve Kelly’s pass through was snapped up by Meath’s excellent full-back Claire Coffey. But she got bottled up by three Antrim players and Kelly picked up possession with her back to goal. She ran across the 20m line and managed to get enough room in for a shot that hit the top left hand corner with force.

Ciara Laverty sets off on a solo run

When McCormick added a point within a minute or two, Antrim had pulled six points’ clear and their defence closed the gate on Meath over the remaining ten minutes – although there was a scare at the start of injury time when Eimear Boyle took a yellow card and conceded a penalty.

Dolan however pulled her shot wide and Antrim were through to an automatic semi-final spot.

Also in another semi-final are Down who beat Laois 2-13 to 1-7. So Antrim cannot meet their Ulster rivals until a possible final.

There are two quarter-final games on Sunday 16th with Derry v Meath and Kerry v Laois and Antrim and Down will not know their semi-final opponents until after those.

Roisin McCormick

Antrim : Eimear Boyle, Clare McKillop, Chloe Drain, Caoimhe Conlon, Niamh Donnelly, Maeve Connolly capt., Amy Boyle, Emma Laverty, Ciara Laverty, Maeve Kelly (1-3), Lucia McNaughton, Caitrin Dobbin (0-2), Roisin McCormack (0-2), Orlagh O’Hara, Nicole O’Neill (0-9, 0-7 frees).

Subs : Christine Laverty for Ciara Laverty (33), Ciara Dobbin for O O’Hara (51), Áine Donnelly for E Laverty (52), Kathryn Donnelly for C McKillop (53).

Meath: Maggie Randle, Sophia Payne, Claire Coffey, Louise Donoghue, Tracy King, Meave Clince, Cheyenne O’Brien, Aedin Slattery (0-1), Kristina Troy capt, Aoife Minogue, Aoife Maguire, Megan Thynne (1-0), Sinead Hackett, Jane Dolan (0-6, 0-3 frees), Amy Gaffney (0-2)

Subs: Leah Dennehy for A Maguire (40), Ellen Burke for S Payne (53)

Referee : Barry Nea (Westmeath)


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