Mighty Mallon points Down to victory

Ulster Senior Camogie Championship final

Down 0-15 Antrim 0-9

Photographs: Sean Paul McKillop

Ten points from team captain Niamh Mallon helped Down overcome the challenge of Antrim in this Ulster Championship final at a sunny Rossa Park on Saturday. Mallon was in splendid form as she struck points from placed balls and frees while the Saffrons struggled to find the target.

The Antrim attack had an off day as they hit nine wides over the hour as they struggled to break down a resolute Down defence for whom full-back Dearbhla Magee turned everything that came her way.

Both sides passed up early opportunities before Down’s Niamh Mallon broke the deadlock from a free on eight minutes.

Mallon doubled the Down lead from another free as Antrim struggled to make any impression in attack. They insisted in pumping aimless balls into the forwards who were outnumbered with Down full-back Dearbhla Magee dominating.

Amy Boyle finally got Antrim off the mark when she gathered a breaking ball and sent her shot between the posts, but the Mourne side replied immediately through a Mallon free to restore their advantage.

Caitrin Dobbin closed the gap once more but Mallon replied again, this time from play as she fired over from out near the sideline for an excellent score.

Roisin McCormick responded with a long range point for the home side but again Down found a reply and Sarah-Louise Graffin placed Lauren Clarke for a score before adding one herself.

Antrim responded once more with a point from Caitrin Dobbin but Down finished the half on top as Mallon cut inside and landed her fifth of the half before Graffin converted another from distance to help Down into a fully deserved 0-8 to 0-4 lead at the break.

The visitors extended their lead within 25 seconds of the restart when Mallon went on a run and fed Graffin to score, but Antrim hit a purple patch and threated to get themselves back into contention with Siobhan McKillop leading the way, rattling off three points in as many minutes to close the gap to two.

Indeed they might well have hit the front when Roisin McCormick broke clear following a turn over and found the unmarked Caitrin Dobbin but Down goalkeeper Catherine McGourty came off her line to deny her at the expense of a ‘45’ which Antrim wasted.

Shannon Graham found her range shortly after to make it a one-point game, but this was as close as Antrim got as their momentum was broken by a Niamh Mallon point from a free on 41 minutes and at this stage the momentum swung back in favour of the Down girls.

Indeed, the hosts had goalkeeper Caitriona Graham to thank for a great save from Dearbhla Coleman, but a pair of Mallon frees and another from play saw the gap pushed out to five.

Down were now calling the shots and Graham made another excellent save to deny Saoirse Sands whose frustration boiled over and she received Red for driving the ball at an Antrim player.

 Mallon converted the resulting ‘45’ to put six between the sides but Antrim were unable to take advantage of the extra player as they hit a series of poor wides from decent opportunities.

Caitrin Dobbin sent her shot from a free the wrong side of the crossbar when a goal was needed late on, but a point from Down’s Anna Mulholland in stoppage time sealed their win.

Down received a second Red card with Gerra McGrattan was dismissed with time almost up but it came too late to have any effect on the result and it is Paul Donnelly’s side who are deserving Ulster champions.

ANTRIM: C Graham; L McKenna, K Laverty, M Lynn; M McGarry, C Conlon, C Patterson; A Boyle (0-1), M McKillen; S McKillop (0-3), S Graham (0-1), K McKillop; C McArthur, R McCormick (0-1), C Dobbin (0-3, 2f)
Subs: A Connolly for L McKenna (42), A Magill for C McArthur (42), N Cosgrove for M McGarry (50), F Kelly for K McKillop (52)

DOWN: C McGourty; A Savage, D Magee, R Smyth; B Savage, B Fitzpatrick, A Mallon; I O’Hare, C McGilligan; L Clarke (0-1), D Savage, S Sands; D Coleman, SL Graffin (0-3), N Mallon (0-10, 6f, 1 45)
Subs: O Boyle for A Mallon (48), A Mulholland (0-1) for C McGilligan (57), G McGrattan for R Smyth (57)

REFEREE: Sean Curran (Derry)

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