Depleted Antrim book semi-final spot

Littlewoods Division Two League Quarter-Final

Antrim 1-13 Galway 1-10

Antrim withstood a first half barrage by Galway in Saturday’s Littlewoods Ireland Division Two quarter-final in Donaghmore Ashbourne. Under the cosh at times by a strong Galway outfit but the girls in Saffron showed great battling qualities to go in at the break on even terms at 1-5 apiece, the goal coming from Maeve Kelly.

Antrim lined out with a defence that had to change significantly from last week’s win over Derry, with rock-solid full-back Chloe Drain discovering earlier in the week that she had a broken jaw, while corner back Maria Lynn, a teacher in Corkey Primary school, had to miss the game because of First Communion.

Antrim’s Anna Connolly runs at the Galway defence

Then not long into the game, with the defence already under severe pressure, last season’s captain Maeve Connolly was forced off with a groin injury to be replaced by Claire McKillop.

So three changes in personnel against a Galway who should have won the 2019 All-Ireland title only for a late rally from Westmeath.

The Saffrons survived and early onslaught and were able to grab a couple of vital scores at the other end to keep in touch on the scoreboard while Galway shot five wides and were denied a couple of goal chances through the bravery of goalkeeper Cáitríona Graham and her defence.

Antrim took a good while to settle but made their limited forays in attack to count. Their defence was heroic. Galway got in for a goal in the ninth minute, after Antrim should have cleared from a ruck on their 20 metre line, and Galway’s Máiréad Dillon finished from close range.

Antrim goalkeeper Caitriona Graham who was a tower of strength for the girls in Saffron.

That put Galway ahead by 1-2 to 0-2 and they led by 1-4 to 0-3 at the first half water-break. It could have been worse for Antrim but points from Maeve Kelly and Amy Boyle left them just a goal adrift going into half-time. The Saffrons would have been happy enough with that, but then things got a lot better in first half injury time.

It was the key move of the game when Maeve Kelly took a pass from Róisín McCormick and went in on the Galway goal. She seemed to lose the sliotar, but recovered to fire home from close range and send the teams in for the break level at 1-5 each.

On the resumtion Nicole O’Neill pointed a free and although the dangerous Áine Keane pointed in reply, points from Róisín McCormick, Maeve Kelly and another O’Neill 45 opened up a three points’ gap for the Saffrons.

The teams traded points each before the second water break (Caitrín Dobbin and Nicole O’Neill on the mark for Antrim) and again on the resumption of play with Anna Connolly pointing from the right wing.

However Elisha Broderick closed the gap to two points with five minutes left. Antrim kept battling away but conceded a late 45. Áine Keane, already the scorer of five points, pulled the shot left and shortly after a long clearance from Niamh Donnelly was picked up by Róisín McCormick for a point at the other end and so the Saffrons secured their passage into the last four.

Antrim substitute Laoisa McKenna clears the danger from defence.

Elsewhere there were wins for Meath and Down, both knocking out Reserve teams, while Wexford had a huge 2-23 to 1-5 win over Westmeath.

The semi-final draw will take place after Sunday afternoon’s last Division One quarter-final between Offaly and Tipperary with the those semi-finals to be played next Saturday.

Antrim : Cáitríona Graham, Katie McKillop, Caoimhe Conlon, Laoise McKenna, Colleen Patterson, Niamh Donnelly, Maeve Connolly, Lucia McNaughton capt., Amy Boyle 0-2, Maeve Kelly 1-2, Anna Connolly 0-1, Nicole O’Neill 0-5, 2 frees, Róisín McCormick 0-2, Ciara Laverty, Caitrín Dobbin 0-1.

Subs : Claire McKillop for M Connolly, Christine Laverty for N O’Neill

Galway: Laura Glynn, Kate Screene, Sarah McCartin, Rachel Hannify, Lisa Casserly capt., Caoimhe Mahon, Teagan Canning, Máiréad Burke, Niamh Horan, Molly Mannion, Ava Lynskey 0-2, Elisha Broderick 0-1, Cora Kenny 0-2, Máiréad Dillon 1-0, Áine Keane 0-5, 2 frees.

Subs: Katie Manning for S McCartin, Chloe Reilly for M Dillon, Tara Rutledge for E Broderick

Referee : Philip McDonald (Cavan)

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