Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate semi-final
Antrim 0-14 Laois 0-3
ANTRIM reached their sixth Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate championship final with a third successive victory in their “home venue” of Inniskeen.
Four weeks ago less than 48 hours before throw-in they were forced to play their first round home game against Carlow at the Monaghan venue. A fortnight later they repeated their four points’ victory over Leinster opposition with an impressive win 1-16 to 2-9 against 2017 champions Meath.
On Saturday they stepped up a gear again to see off another Leinster side in Laois and comfortably reach the final they last graced in 2012.
This game was out of the reach of Laois by half-time with Antrim leading by 0-9 to 0-3, all the Laois scores coming from frees.
Although they failed to score at all during the second half, the midlanders were more dangerous. However even their free-taking went wrong for them with three shots going wide and a couple more dropping short. In fact they ended up using five different free-takers.
From Antrim’s point of view however, they will need to tidy up on the concession of frees as Down’s Paula O’Hagan will not be as wasteful in the final on December 5th.
The Saffrons were in control over that opening half with three points apiece from Maeve Kelly and Cáitrín Dobbin, one from Róisín McCormick and two frees from Nicole O’Neill.
All over the field Antrim were in control with Colleen Patterson and Christine Laverty, neither of whom started the semi-final, impressing.
Maeve Kelly was another who troubled Laois any time the sliotar came near her way and her three points were all brilliantly taken. The same for Cáitrín Dobbin’s scores while Lucia McNaughton’s work-rate was top class from start to finish and the Loughgiel midfielder deserved to land the final points seconds before the final whistle.
During the third quarter Laois enjoyed their best spell with their defence looking a little less porous and Jessie Quinlan and Joyce Dunne forcing their way through to earn frees inside Antrim’s 45m line.
At the other end Aedin Lowry brought off a brilliant stop from a Maeve Kelly run and shot and she was also alert when Róisín McCormick got inside the cover in search of a goal.
McCormick had hard luck on a couple of occasions before grabbing her second point and the first score of the second half after 37 minutes.
Nicole O’Neill then added three points from placed balls before she made way for Áine Donnelly in the 52nd minute as the management ran the bench with Ciara Laverty and Méadhb O’Neill already in action and Catherine McShane also joining the fray a few minutes later.
So a comfortable win for Antrim. Three wins from three starts, the same as Down on the other side of the competition.
It is now an all-Ulster final on December 5th.
Antrim : Eimear Boyle, Colleen Patterson, Chloe Drain, Caoimhe Conlon, Niamh Donnelly, Maeve Connolly capt., Amy Boyle, Emma Laverty, Lucia McNaughton (0-1), Maeve Kelly (0-3), Christine Laverty, Caitrin Dobbin (0-3), Roisin McCormick (0-2), Orlagh O’Hara, Nicole O’Neill (0-5 frees).
Subs : Ciara Laverty for O O’Hara (35), Méadhb O’Neill for E Laverty (35), Áine Donnelly for N O’Neill (52), Catherine McShane for C Conlon (55).
Laois : A Lowry, M O’Connor, R Kilmartin, L Finlay, C Tynan, A McEvoy, A Collier (0-1 free), J Bergin, J Quinlan (0-1), J Dunne, S Creagh, LM Maher, S Cuddy capt., K Keenan (0-2 frees), A O’Dea.
Subs : C Galbraith for S Creagh (35), LC Fennell for K Keenan (44), N Coss for A O’Dea ((52), J Dollard for S Cuddy (55), G Hyland for J Bergin (59)
Referee : Justin Heffernan (Wexford)