Super Saffrons are All Ireland champions

All Ireland Intermediate Camogie Final

Antrim 2-21 Kilkenny 2-13

Antrim returned to the top table of camogie following a convincing eight point victory over Kilkenny in Sunday’s All-Ireland Intermediate final in Croke Park.

It’s the Saffron’s first title at this level in 18 years when current selector Elaine Dowds was a player. Dowds came off the bench that day to claim 1-1 against Tipperary in the 2003 decider.

It was a scintillating performance from the Antrim side and once Maeve Kelly waved her way through the Cats defence for the games opening goal on 21 minutes, there was no turning back for Paul McKillen’s side.

The partnership of Róisín McCormick and Kelly have long been tipped for superstardom through the schools and underage structures in Antrim and they delivered on the biggest stage at Croke Park to propel Antrim to victory in the All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie final.

Team captain Lucia McNaughton lifts the McGrath Cup after her team’s win over Kilkenny

The deadly duo scored a goal and 14 points between them, and with Caitrin Dobbin also weighing in with 1-02, Antrim racked up a remarkable return that no side could match.

The game was decided in a matter of minutes just before the second-half water break, a period that actually began with a goal from a 20-metre free by Sophie O’Dwyer in the 43rd minute.

That gave Kilkenny hope as they closed to within four points, but McCormick and Kelly responded immediately with points before McCormick set up Catrine Dobbin, who finished with the coldness of an assassin, the shot to the far corner worthy of the move that had led up to it.

It was only two minutes after O’Dwyer’s major and the hopes they had harboured had been ruthlessly extinguished.

Both sets of attacks showing good economy in the first half, finishing ruthlessly and with no overtly defensive systems, that meant a welter of excitement for supporters.

It was 1-11 to 0-9 at half-time and only three of those scores came from placed balls as the teams revelled in the open spaces.

Kilkenny started very well and their three half-forwards had pointed inside five minutes, after Kelly had opened the scoring in 58 seconds. In the blink of an eye, the Cats were leading by three, Sarah Walsh, Eva Hynes, Walsh again and Ciara O’Keeffe splitting the posts.

Celebration time! Antrim players embrace at the final whistle

Antrim have a nice mix of youth and experience, with the likes of Chloe Drain and Maeve Connolly on the panel that won the Premier Junior title in 2010, while McCormick and Kelly have built up a lot of game time over the past four years.

Beaten finalists by Down last year, they stayed calm though they were extremely fortunate in the eight minute when Danielle Quigley struck the butt of their post and the normally deadly Hannah Scott fresh-aired from the rebound.

Kilkenny will wonder what a goal would have done then, particularly as Antrim went straight up the field for McCormick to point after a run in from the. The Loughgiel starlet followed up with another couple of scores, supplemented by a Lucia McNaughton point for the Saffrons to hit the front, a lead they held at the water break.

O’Dwyer equalised from a free but Kelly lit up Croke Park with a brilliant individual goal in the 21st minute, picking up possession around 30m out, side-stepping wonderfully and then showing good strength to bear down on Sinéad Farrell.

Player fo the match Maeve Kelly with her mum Una and dad Barry after the game.

Thereafter it was all about composure, the Ballycastle star regathering after an initial hook to fire low to the net from a rapidly tightening angle. The gap opened to five and that’s how it was at the change of ends.

Kelly had a glorious point after 38 seconds of the restart and the lead was seven when O’Dwyer stunned everyone with her deadly strike.

The reply told you all you needed to know about the mentality of the Paul McKillen and Jim McKernan-managed outfit and the streaked clear, with a flurry of outstanding points after Dobbin’s goal.

Sarah Crowley found the net in injury time for Kilkenny but the last word was left to Nicole O’Neill to confirm Antrim’s Senior status with the final score of the game.

Roisin McCormick, who was brilliant in the Antrim forward line, can’t hide her delight at the final whistle.

Antrim: C Graham, C Drain, N Donnelly, M Lynn, C Patterson, C Conlon, M Connolly, L McNaughton (0-01, N O’Neill (0-03), M Kelly (1-05), A Boyle, A Magill (0-01), R McCormick (0-09), C Laverty, C Dobbin (1-02).

Subs: A Connolly for Laverty (38), K Carey McAleese for Magill (50), S Devlin for Patterson (60), L McKenna for Boyle (60+1), K McKillop for M Connolly (60+1)

Kilkenny: S Farrell, N Leahy, R Phelan, C Murphy, S Crowley (1-00), L Fennelly, T Fitzgerald, L Hegarty, C Phelan (0-01), E Hynes (0-02), S Walsh (0-02), C O’Keeffe, S O’Dwyer (1-05), H Scott, D Quigley (0-01).

Subs: J Leahy for Hegarty (36), T Donnelly (0-01) for Quigley inj (43), S O’Keeffe for Fitzgerald (46), C Dowling for Scott (55), R O’Keeffe for C O’Keeffe (57)

Referee: Conor Quinlan (Galway)

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