Antrim are Ulster Junior Champions after final win over Derry

TG4 Ulster Junior Football Championship Final 

Antrim 4-17- 0-08 Derry 

Kevin Herron reports from Davitt Park 

Antrim hit 1-08 without reply in a blistering second half display to defeat neighbours Derry in this evenings TG4 Ulster Ulster Junior Ladies Final at Davitt Park.

Goals from Cathy Carey and Meabh McCurdy proved the difference at the break as Antrim led 2-03-0-06 against a Derry side that needed to rely on their free taking to keep in touch.

But the Saffrons stepped up the gears in the second period and further strikes from Caitlin Taggart and Thresea Mallon along with some excellent points in-between saw the hosts make it back-to-back junior successes.

The scene was set for the Ulster neighbours to contest the first junior final in two years- after Covid prevented a decider last year and Davitt Park was a fantastic host venue.

Antrim settled quickest and hit the front inside of sixty seconds. Ciara Brown and Emma Ferran worked the ball into the path of Grainne McLaughlin who picked out Cathy Carey for the opening point.

They increased their advantage through a converted Caitlin Taggart free and Taggart notched up a point from play shortly after- thanks to some nice interchange from Meabh McCurdy.

Derry hit back when Deirbhle McNicholl was fouled and converted the resulting free, moments after Brenna O’Loughlin had missed from a similar position.

The opening goal arrived after eight minutes, Grainne McLaughlIn’s shot seemed to be initially dealt with by Derry keeper Louise Gunn, but the ball spilt, and Cathy Carey stabbed home from close range to give her side a 1-03-0-01 lead.

Deirbhle McNicholl converted a free in response and the Oak Leaf girls had their third courtesy of McNicholl who swung over from play.

The visitors closed the gap to two-points after Brenna O’Loughlin was fouled and she converted the resulting free.

In the aftermath of the first half water break the Saffrons had their second goal.

On 17 minutes Aine Tubridy ran onto a neat interchange with Ciara Brown and picked out Meabh McCurdy whose high shot dropped into the corner of the net past Gunn to make it 2-03-0-04.

Derry ended the half on the front foot with Ella Rose Sainsbury charging forward and directing her shot between the posts and a converted Lead McGonagle free ensured that just three points separated the sides at the interval (2-03-0-06).

Antrim started the second period brightly with three points on the spin from substitute Theresa Mallon, a Meabh McCurdy point from Aine Tubridy’s slipped pass and an Aoife Taggart score from in-front of the posts.

Back-to-back frees were converted by Cathy Carey and Grainne McLaughlin swung over a terrific point a few minutes later.

The hosts were well on top and Meabh McCurdy split the posts for her second point and from the resulting kick out the hungry hosts had their third goal of the evening.

Cathy Carey read Louise Gunn’s kick-out and switched it to Aoife Taggart who quickly found sister Caitlin in space and Caitlin slipped the ball low to the net to make it 3-10-0-06.

Carey popped over her third of the half to make it 1-08 unanswered with Derry replying through their fourth free taker of the afternoon- substitute Emma Doherty.

But Antrim responded with another three scores in succession. Aine Tubridy burst forward and shot over with Caitlin Taggart and Theresa Mallon picking off further points between the water break. 

Derry almost had a lifeline when Ciara McGurk went through on goal- but Anna McCann made herself big and turned away McGurk’s goal-bound effort.

Cathy Carey extended the lead at the another over and Antrim found their fourth goal of the evening, after turning Derry over coming out of defence Theresa Mallon shot low to the net to make it 4-15-0-08.

A fifth may have followed but Louis Gunn was equal to Meave McCurdy’s shot as the full forward was denied her second goal.

Deirbhle McNicholl (free) and Meabh McCurdy traded points and the last score was a well taken Grainne McLaughlin point as Antrim ran out 4-17-0-08 winners to make it sucessive Ulster Junior successes. 

Antrim: A McCann, N McIntosh, O Corr, R Hemsworth, A McFarland, M Blaney, A Tubridy (0-01), E Ferran, C Brown, N Enright, C Carey (1-05, 0-02f), G McLaughlin (0-02), A Taggart (0-01), M McCurdy (1-03) C Taggart (1-03,0-01f). Subs: N Webb for R Hemsworth (16), T Mallon (1-02) for O Corr (21), E Morgan for A Taggart (45), C Stewart for A Tubridy (51), N Coleman for C Taggart (54).

Derry: L Gunn, N Brown, A McGough, G Conway, A Frizzelle, D Kivlehan, C Kirkpatrick, A McAllister, R McAllister, C McGurk, E-Rose Sainsbury (0-01), E Doherty, B O Loughlin (0-01f), D McNicholl (0-04, 0-02f), L McGonagle (0-01f). Subs: E Doherty (0-01f) for L McGonigle (35), K Lynn for E Doherty (45), C Moore for B O’Loughlin (48), B McMullan for C Kirkpatrick (48), A O’Loughlin for A Frizzelle (48).

Referee: Kieran McKeever (Armagh)

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