Antrim dreams dashed by dominant Down in Intermediate final

Jack McGrath Cup final

Liberty Insurance All Ireland Intermediate Camogie Final

Antrim 2-10 Down 4-16

Antrim’s dreams of All Ireland glory were dashed by a brilliant Down side in Saturday’s All Ireland Intermediate Camogie final at Breffni Park, Cavan

The Saffrons got off to an excellent start with a goal from Roisin McCormick in the opening minute but Down battled their way back. The young Saffrons matched their opponents most of the way in a spirited first half performance and led 1-4 to 0-5 after 22 minutes and had a chance to extend their lead soon afterwards but Caitrin Dobbin’s grounds shot went narrowly wide. Down came back strongly in the closing stages of the half and a goal from Sara Louise Graffin in the 33d minute saw them lead 1-8 to 1-5 at the break.

Antrim’s Maeve Kelly breaks away from Down’s Karen McMullan during the opening half

Maeve Kelly, who was superb throughout for the Saffrons, burst through for an Antrim goal on the restart to edge her side 2-6 to 1-8 ahead after 34 minutes but slowly Down began to get on top and Niamh Mallon was quickest to react when the sliotar rebounded of an Antrim upright and she fired to the net to put Down three ahead with 37 minutes gone.

Antrim never gave up the fight but it was Down who were playing the more controlled camogie and Player of the Match Mallon added a second goal to leave her side 3-12 to 2-7 ahead at the second water break and it was a long way back for Antrim.

Despite their best efforts Antrim never looked like getting in for the goal that they needed to rekindle their fire with Down now moving the sliotar around confidently and a late goal from Clarke put the icing on a strong performance by the Mourne girls.

Roisin McCormick gets Antrim off to a great start with a goal in the opening minute

PERFECT START

Antrim went into this Jack McGrath final as underdogs but got off to a perfect start when a Maeve Kelly delivery was spilled by Down keeper Catherine McGourty and Roisin McCormick was on hand to deliver an excellent finish with only a minute on the clock.

Down responded and after Paula O’Hagan was off target from a couple of frees they got back in touch with points from Aimee McAleenan, Niamh Mallon and a Paula O’Hagan free to draw level by the 8th minute.

Sara Louise Graffin edged Down ahead for the first time with a point in the 13th minute but just when it looked like the Mourne girls were taking control Antrim produced a response with points from Nicole O’Neill (free), Maeve Kelly and Kelly again to lead 1-4 to 0-5 after 22 minutes and they were good value for that lead.

They had a great opportunity to put further daylight between the sides when a Kelly flick put Caitrin Dobbin in the clear but as McGourty advance off the Down goalline the Loughgiel girl pulled her first time shot agonisingly wide of the right hand upright.

Sara Louise Graffin punches the air in celebration after scoring her team’s opening goal just before half time

Down responded to that let-off to draw level through points from Niamh Mallon and Saoirse McCartan before Clarke set up Sara Louise Graffin for a goal in the 33d minute to leave them leading 1-8 to 1-6 at the short whistle.

ANTRIM RESPOND AGAIN

Antrim responded again at the start of the second half and after Caitrin Dobbin broke away from a ruck of players to fire over and excellent point, Maeve Kelly broke past the Down full back to fire to the net to put the Saffrons a point clear, but Down were level again within two minutes when Paula O’Hagan send over a free.

Down looked to be in for a goal in their next attack but Chloe Draine made a great last ditch tackle to deny Laura Clarke but the tide was beginning to turn in favour of the Mourne girls and Niamh Mallon reacted quickest when a Paula O’Hagan free came back of the upright to fire to the net.

Paula O’Hagan and Mallon added points and when Mallon added her second, and Down’s third goal in the 41st minute, it looked as good as over. An O’Hagan pointed free moved her side nine clear before Nicole O’Neill replied from a couple of frees to leave eight between the sides at the second water break.

Down’s Naimh Mallon is challenged by Antrim’s Amy Boyle

Down were now controlling the game at their own pace and after Saoirse McCartan and Nicole O’Neill traded points, Paula O’Hagan pointed a Down free before Lauren Clarke scooped the ball over the Antrim crossbar when a goal looked on.

Sarah Louise Clarke moved Down 11 ahead as the game entered 6 minutes of time added on with Nicole O’Neill replying from an Antrim free and the same player was then denied by Catherine McGourty from a 20 meter free after the Down keeper was penalised for lying on the ball.

Antrim were now playing for pride and Nicole O’Neill had their final score when she pointed a free in the 64th minute but it was a more clinical Down who finished strongly and Lauren Clarke had the final score of the game when she fired home Down’s fourth goal.

Lucia McNaughton solos towards the Down goal

A disappointing result in the end for this young Antrim side but I have no doubt they will be back again next year and if Paul McKillen, Jingo McKernan and Elaine Dowds remain on board and can keep this panel together they are more than capable of giving the Intermediate title a real bash next year.

ANTRIM: E Boyle; C Patterson, C Drain, C Conlon; N Donelly, M Connolly; E Laverty, L McNaughton; M Kelly (1-2), Christine Laverty, C Dobbin (0-1); R McCormick (1–2, 0-1f), Ciara Laverty, N O’Neill (0-5, 0-5fs).  

Subs: C McKillop for E Laverty (40mins), O O’Hara for Ciara Laverty (44mins), NA Donnelly for Patterson (46mins), A Donnelly for Christine Laverty (59mins).

DOWN: C McGourty; C Caldwell, D Magee, D Harrison; B Fitzpatrick, K McMullan, F Carr; A Keown, P O’Hagan (0-5, 0-3fs, 0-2 ’45s); A McAleenan (0-2), SL Graffin (1-3), C Cowen; N Mallon (2-3), L Clarke (1-1), S McCartan (0-2). 

Subs: C Rocks for Fitzpatrick (60mins), C Fitzpatrick for Cowen (61mins), I O’Hare for L Clarke (64mins).

REFEREE: J Heffernan (Wexford).  

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