DOWN MEMORY LANE
Twenty-five years ago Cushendall completed a great championship run by beating holders Dunloy in the final of the 1995 Camogie Championship at Fr Healy Park. The ‘Ruairettes’ had beaten Portglenone in the quarter final and Loughgiel in the semis before producing a fantastic battling performance to shock Dunloy in the final. For those younger readers I think we should point out that back then the teams were 12-a-side and played on a shortened pitch, so when you read about the late great Karen Coyles scoring a goal from a puc-out you will understand that it was not a 150 metre strike.
1995 Antrim Senior Camogie final 1995
Cushendall 2-6 Dunloy 0-10
By John McIlwaine
A brilliant rearguard action in the second half of Sunday’s Antrim Senior Camogie Championship final saw Cushendall dethrone champions Dunloy in perfect conditions at Fr Healy Park, Loughgiel.
With eighteen minutes of the game gone Dunloy looked to be well on course to retain their title when they led by 0-8 to 1-0, Cushendall, who were playing with the aid of the light breeze, had only managed one score at this stage, and it came direct from a poc-out from goalkeeper Karen Coyle. Dunloy on the other hand had picked off their scores from frees and from play, and appeared to be well placed to retain their title. However all was to change in the final five minutes of the first half as the ‘Dall found another gear and rattled in a goal and four points to lead at the break by a point.
The Cuchullains girls must still have fancied their chances when they turned to play with the freshening breeze at their back but incredibly all they could muster in the second half was a point from a Sinead McMullan free as the Cushendall defence performed heroics. Playing as if their very lives depended on it the Cushendall defence hooked and blocked, hassled and harried to totally snuff out the Dunloy threat to earn their team their first title since 1986.
In bright sunshine and on a perfect playing surface Dunloy looked dangerous from the start and it was no surprise when Elaine Dowds put them ahead after just two minutes. Cushendall received a great boost when Karne Coyle’s puc-out went all the way to the Dunloy net at the other end of the field to put the challengers two ahead. The score failed to lift them however and is was Dunloy who continued to hold the upper hand for most of the first half. The reigning champions drew level with points from Elaine Dowds and Oonagh Elliott, before a point from a Sinead McMullan free put them back in front by the eleventh minute.
Ane McKee converted a ‘30’ in the fifteenth minute to pull her team three clear and when Bronagh Elliott and Majella McMullan tacked on two more the Antrim and Ulster champions were in a very strong position. However things began to turn slowly in the challengers favour and when team captain Oonagh McCambridge struck a good point five minutes from the interval things suddenly began to happen. Karen Coyles came out to send over a long range free and when the keeper had another long range effort turned over the ball soon afterwards the gap was down to just two.
Anne McKee settled Dunloy with a point which put them three clear again but Cushendall hit back with a vengeance when Joan Campbell soloed through from midfield to fire a brilliant shot to the Loughgiel net and in injury time Aileen Nelson pointed to give her team a slender half time lead.
With the scores coming think and fast in that second quarter we were expecting the pattern to continue in the second half, but disappointingly that never happened as the second period produced just three more scores, and only one of them coming from play. However what the game lacked in scoring it more than made up for in honest endeavour as two superb defences showed their battling skills. Aileen Nelson increased Cushendall’s lead with a pointed free five minutes after the restart, and it was a further nine minute before Dunloy managed their only score of the half with a point from a Sinead McMullan free.
Joan Campbell restored Cushendall’s two point cushion when she pointed from play, following an Aileen Nelson free six minutes from time. The final minutes were nerve wracking for both sets of fans as Dunloy pushed for what would have been the winning goal, but they were denied time after time by Karen Coyles in the Cushendall goals who pulled off a series of outstanding saves, and brilliant full-back Anne McDonnell who refused to yield under relentless pressure.
CUSHENDALL – Karen Coyles (1-1), A McDonnell, D McMullan, I Kerr, B McCollum, B Byrne, O McCambridge (0-1), R Reid, A McNaughton, M Carson, A Nelson (0-2), J Campbell (1-1)
Subs – S Campbell for R Reid
DUNLOY – C McMahon, D Brogan, J Elliott, S McMullan (0-2), H McMullan, D Cunning, A McKee (0-2), M McMullan (0-2), B Burns, O Elliott (0-1), B Elliott (0-1), E Dowds (0-2).
Subs – M Dowds for Burns
Referee – Tommy McIntyre (Loughgiel).