TG4 All-Ireland Junior Championship
Antrim 5-20- 2-13 Carlow
Kevin Herron reports
Having suffered defeat to Derry in their opening encounter Antrim had little margin for error when they met Carlow in Dunleer on Sunday afternoon and they eventually turned things around to boost their chances of claiming an All-Ireland semi-final spot with a 5-20-2-13 extra-time win.
Despite trailing to a Cliodhna Ni She’s goal at the start of the second-half the Saffron ladies showed resilience to force an additional twenty minutes through points from substitute Caitlin Taggart and Theresa Mallon.
Then in the first period of extra-time they blazed a trail of goals through Grainne McLaughlin, sisters Aoife and Caitlin Taggart and Theresa Mallon.
Cathy Carey then added a fifth to secure a massive victory which puts Antrim right back in the reckoning for a semi-final spot.
There were three changes to the Antrim squad from the Derry reversal eight days earlier. Maria Hanna, Thresea Mellon and Ellen Morgan were all brought into the starting fifteen at the expense of Niamh Enright, Meabh McCurdy and Caitlin Taggart.
Carlow were first off, the mark in the Louth sunshine as Cliodhna Ni She combined with Dannah O’Brien who swung over the opening point.
Cathy Carey was on-hand to reply from a free and Antrim forged ahead through an Ellen Morgan point after an off the shoulder pass.
A goal opportunity went abegging for the Saffrons when Aine Tubridy found the run of Grainne McLaughlin whose shot dropped wide of the post.
But points followed from Cathy Carey and Ellen Morgan as Antrim held a 0-04-0-01 lead in the early stages.
Carlow hit back through a second converted free from Dannah O’Brien before Niamh Forde found her captain – Aoibhinn Gilmartin who conjured up a nice score.
Points were traded between Grainne McLaughlin and Gilmartin a few minutes before Cliodhna Ni She converted a free to draw the sides level at 0-05 apiece.
Antrim restored their slender advantage through a fantastic Aoife Taggart point after a neat interchange with Theresa Mellon.
Carlow had the chance to edge in front for the second time on 24 minutes when Ni She went to ground and referee David Hurson outstretched his arms and signalled for a penalty.
Dannah O’Brien stepped up and saw her effort clip the post, but she converted a free in the immediate aftermath to restore parity.
O’Brien kicked a fantastic point to bring her personal tally to 0-04 and nudge her side back in front.
However, the topsy-turvy encounter was evenly balanced once more after Cathy Carey played a long ball to Grainne McLaughlin who steered the ball to Ellen Morgan for her third score of the half.
Almost instantly the Saffrons had the chance to hit the front again through a converted free and Cathy Carey obliged for the third time.
That lead was extended before the break as Emma Ferran picked out Theresa Mellon who offloaded to Grainne McLaughlin for a point which moved her side into a 0-09-0-07 lead at the midway point in proceedings.
Antrim almost had a perfect to the second half when Aoife Taggart was slipped through by Ellen Morgan and Nicola Hanley made a fine stop to deny Taggart.
It was a chance they would rue as Carlow made no mistake with a similar opportunity at the other end.
Cliodhna Ni She linked-up fantastically with substitute Sara Doyle before thundering a low shot past Anna McCann to give her side a 1-07-0-09 lead.
Ni She then popped over her second point in the aftermath and played in role in an opportunity that almost led to a second goal on 41 minutes.
It was a roles reversal of the first as Ni She threaded the ball through for Sara Doyle whose shot crashed off the underside of the bar and out to safety.
Anna McCann gifted Carlow another glorious goal chance with a stray pass to Ni She- who took off towards the net and was stopped in her tracks in the nick of time by Orla Corr.
Aoife Taggart hit her sides opening point of the second period on 52 minutes in a move that involved sister Caitlin- who was sprung from the bench.
A fourth goal opportunity presented itself for Carlow with Niamh Forde closing in on goal, though the midfielder dragged her low effort off target.
Antrim pulled level on 56 when Grainne McLaughlin swung over a fine point from Emma Ferran’s through ball.
Sara Doyle instantly responded and restored Carlow’s lead after showing a fine burst of pace and conjuring the score.
Substitute Caitlin Taggart took a hoisted pass from Grainne McLaughlin and drew the sides level as time ticked towards the conclusion.
It looked as though Carlow had got the job done when back-to-back frees from Cliodhna Ni She and Dannah O’Brien moved their side 1-11-0-12 up four minutes into time added on.
But the Saffrons displayed a never-say-die attitude and just as it looked as though the game as gone and back-to-back defeats were on the cards- they levelled.
The combination of Ferran and Taggart combined for the second time and Thresea Mellon added a point under extreme pressure to draw the sides level at 1-11-0-14 and ensure that extra-time would be required.
Carlow started extra-time brighter and led through a third converted free of the contest by Cliodhna Ni She.
But sixty seconds later the pendulum swung back into Antrim’s favour, Thresea Mellon saw her shot partially parried to safety by Nicola Hanley – and Grainne McLaughlin followed in and palmed to the net from close range to give her side a 1-14-1-12 lead.
Aoife Taggart swung over her second point of the afternoon and then added a goal from a turnover by Duana Coleman that was slipped into her path and Taggart made no mistake with a low finish to the net.
Things soon went from bad to worse as Hanley’s quick kick-out was turned over and Cathy Carey fed the ball to Caitlin Taggart who blasted to the net to make it 3-15-1-12 and suddenly the game appeared to be over as a contest.
Aoife Taggart added her second point of the extra-time period before Antrim hit the net for the fourth time inside of eight minutes of the first period. A free from Cathy Carey dropped short and Theresa Mellon nipped in and found the net.
A point followed in reply from Niamh Kelly but Antrim were in complete control of proceedings and 4-16-1-13 ahead with another period of extra-time remaining.
Carlow were awarded their second penalty of the game two minutes into the second period when Anna McCann brought Niamh Murphy to ground- referee Hurson consulted with his umpires but decided against taking any further action against McCann.
Keeper Nicola Hanley came forward and confidently tucked her effort past counterpart McCann- though it appeared to be little more than scant consolation with seven minutes remaining and a nine-point swing needed.
Caitlin Taggart added to her goal and point after nice work from Cathy Carey and the duo combined for the next score. Taggart went short with a free to Carey and popped the ball over after the return from the St Ergnat’s forward.
Taggart converted a further free before adding her last point from play and with almost the last action of the game a fifth goal arrived.
Cathy Carey would profit from an unselfish Caitlin Taggart pass and rounded Hanley to finish of the scoring and wrap up a 5-20-2-13 win for her side- a win that gets them back in the race for an All-Ireland semi-final spot.
Antrim: A McCann, N McIntosh, O Corr, N Webb, A McFarland, M Blaney, A Tubridy, E Ferran, C Brown, M Hanna, C Carey (1-03, 0-02f), G McLaughlin (1-03), A Taggart (1-03), T Mellon (1-02), E Morgan (0-02) Subs:D Coleman for M Hanna (43), C Taggart (1-06, 0-01f) for E Morgan (48), C Stewart for C Brown (60) , M Mitchell for G McLaughlin (70), E Murphy for A Taggart (70), J Curran for T Mellon (78).
Carlow: N Hanley, O Fitzpatrick, A Dooley, R Bermingham, M Dermody, E Atkinson, N Murphy, C O’Neill, N Forde, N Kelly (0-01), A Gilmartin (0-02), M Kinsella, D O’Brien (0-05, 0-03f), C Ni She (1-04, 0-03f), N Mohan. Subs: K Collins for M Dermody (24), S Doyle (0-01) for N Kelly (32), A Dowling for A Gilmartin (46), C Redmond for M Kinsella (46).
Referee: David Hurson (Monaghan)