DOWN MEMORY LANE
In 2014 Antrim U15 Camogs, under the guidance of Sean Paul McKillop, Seamus McAleenan and Karen McCormick wrote their little bit of history when they won the All Ireland Shield. Today the Saffron Gael takes a look back at that remarkable achievement.
Antrim’s under 15 Development Squad has won the inaugural All-Ireland Division 1 Shield final after a successful outing on Saturday in Port Laoise.
Following a tournament earlier in the summer when they just missed qualification to the Cup competition, the squad was drawn against Kilkenny, Dublin and Meath in the Division 1 Shield.
The squad has been training hard in Loughgiel each Saturday morning since the start of May under Sean Paul McKillop, Karen McCormick and Séamas McAleenan and they hit the ground running with a 6-9 to 1-3 win over Meath, a performance that included a first half hat-trick of goals for full-forward Victoria Edgar.
Having lost narrowly to Dublin in the early summer blitz in the capital, Antrim had targeted the Dubs as their main rivals for the title and they looked to be up against it when the Ulster side fell behind to an early goal and a point in the second game – despite playing with the aid of the strong breeze.
However Aine Donnelly made a superb run down the right wing and crashed in a great goal five minutes before the break and that score ignited the Saffron challenge with tremendous tackling, blocking and skilful passing throughout the pitch and they went on to lead by 2-4 to 1-1 at the break.
They pressed on in the second half against the breeze to win by 3-8 to 1-2 with Victoria Edgar shooting her second goal, a brilliant solo effort.
All 22 players on the panel were getting plenty of game time and the Kilkenny match saw a number rise to their coaches’ challenge to claim a starting place for the final.
Kilkenny used the breeze well to lead by 2-1 to Áine Donnelly’s two points at half-time. Áine fired in a goal early in the second half and that put the team on the way to a 3-6 to 3-3 victory that was more comfortable than the score-line suggests and included a brilliant long-range point from corner-back Sian McNeill, excellent work at midfield from Kirsty Laverty, some superb saves from stand-in goalie Emily Falloon and great work up front from Bronagh McKeague.
The final against Dublin turned out to be a much more difficult encounter than the earlier group game, despite an early goal from Áine Donnelly. It was obvious that the Dublin management had held a few players in reserve and one of them, Rebecca Beggins hit a couple of excellent points to leave her team well-placed at 1-2 to 0-4 in arrears at half-time.
In the second half, Dublin seemed to get all the breaks and Antrim were struggling to convert their good approach play into scores.
A goal from Aoife McKearney put Dublin 1-6 to 1-2 ahead, and despite Brónagh McKeague reducing the margin with a goal midway through the half, a scrambled goal from Emer Murphy five minutes from time was followed by a goal from Victoria Edgar and the sides were tied on 3-3 to 2-6.
Aoife McKearney’s outrageous effort from close to the corner-flag came off the far post and dropped over the bar to edge Dublin ahead with just a minute left.
However Antrim kept their shape and a long ball down the centre found Victoria Edgar who rounded two players, only to see her shot blocked. Undeterred however the Glenravel girl picked up the re-bound, rounded two more defenders and fired to the net.
The excellent half-back line of Rebecca Hargan, Cliodhna Donnelly and Catherine McShane combined well to deal with the puck-out and the sliotar travelled down the right wing to Caoimhe Wright who turned her player and fired in her team’s fifth goal to make sure the Shield went north for the first time.
Although the final was a tense affair, Antrim were definitely the most impressive side in the competition with their vast arrange of skills and aggressive tackling combining with good teamwork and understanding. The success was all the more creditable in that the squad did not have a recognised goalie and Finvola McVeigh, Bronagh Devlin and Emily Falloon all took their place between the posts and none looked uncomfortable in the role.
Many of the girls featured in the Ulster winning under 14 team last year and it is hoped that this team can be brought through the age-groups to form the backbone of the senior squad in four or five years’ time. They certainly look the part at the moment.
All-Ireland under 15 Division 1 Shield Group stages :
Antrim 6-9 Meath 1-3 (scorers : Victoria Edgar 3-0, Caoimhe Wright 1-3, Maria Bakewell 1-1, Geena Convery 1-0, Áine Donnelly 0-3, Cliodhna Donnelly 0-1, Emily Falloon 0-1)
Antrim 3-8 Dublin 1-2 (scorers : Victoria Edgar 2-2, Áine Donnelly 1-1, Caoimhe Wright 0-2, Áine Devlin 0-1, Finvola McVeigh 0-1, Emily Falloon 0-1).
Antrim 3-6 Kilkenny 3-3 (scorers : Victoria Edgar 2-0, Áine Donnelly 1-2, Caoimhe Wright 0-2, Sian McNeill 0-1, Brónagh McKeague 0-1).
All-Ireland under 15 Division 1 Shield final :
Antrim 5-3 Dublin 2-7 (scorers : Victoria Edgar 2-1, Caoimhe Wright 1-1, Áine Donnelly 1-0, Brónagh McKeague 1-0, Áine Devlin 0-1).
Antrim panel : Cáitríona Graham (Ahoghill), Brónagh McKeague, Caoimhe Wright, Catherine McShane, Luiseach Mathers, Maria Bakewell, Emer O’Neill, Orla Donnelly, Áine Donnelly, Cliodhna Donnelly (all Ballycastle), Kirsty Laverty & Victoria Edgar (both Brídíní Óga, Glenravel), Sian McNeill (St John’s Carnlough), Siobhán McKillop (Ruairí Óg, Cushendall), Fiona Hills (Cúchulainn’s, Dunloy), Emily Falloon (Glenavy), Finvola McVeigh, Katie Lynn & Rebecca Hargan (all Shamrocks, Loughgiel), Geena Convery (Geraldine’s, Portglenone), AIne & Brónagh Devlin (Tír na nÓg, Randalstown).
Absent on Saturday were : Méadhbh McCormick (Shamrocks, Loughgiel) and Caoimhe Conlon (Cúchulainn’s, Dunloy) both on holidays and Susan McElwee (Kickham’s, Creggan) injured.
Sean Paul McKillop (Ruairí Óg, Cushendall)
Séamas McAleenan (Brídíní Óga, Glenravel)
Karen McCormick (Shamrocks, Loughgiel).
A) The Antrim team that won the All -Ireland under 15 Division 1 Shield with mentors Séamas McAleenan (left) and Sean Paul McKillop (right)
B) The nine Ballycastle players who contributed to Antrim’s All-Ireland success.
C) Loughgiel Shamrocks’ players (l to r) Rebecca Hargan, Katie Lynn and Finvola McVeigh enjoy the victory.
D) Brídíní Óga players Victoria Edgar and Kirsty Laverty with the All-Ireland Shield.
E) Coach Sean Paul McKillop with his daughter Siobhán.
F) Geena Convery from Portglenone and Carnlough’s Sian McNeill with the Shield.
G) The Devlin twins, Áine left and Brónagh, from Tí r na nÓg played on the All-Ireland winning team