Can Rasharkin make it five in a row for Antrim clubs in Bridie McMenamin Final

Bridie McMenamin Final

Kelly Park Portglenone 2-00pm

St. Mary’s Rasharkin v St. Matthew’s Drumsurn

Rasharkin remain on course to bring the Bridie McMenamin Shield to Antrim for a fifth successive season after travelling down to Ballela to record a comfortable semi-final victory over the Down champions.

In fact this will be the fifth successive final that has an Antrim v Derry pairing after Drumsurn had an easy 1-16 to 0-4 win over St Brigid’s in Armagh on Saturday.

Ahoghill and Lavey clashed in 2019. The following season Creggan made it two in a row with a narrow 1-6 to 1-5 win over Magherafelt. Magherafelt made it back to the 2021 final but again lost by a point, this time to St John’s Belfast.

Then last year Ruairí Óg reserve team made it four in a row with a 2-9 to 1-6 win over Ballerin and Rasharkin have the opportunity to make it five on the bounce when they take on Drumsurn in Portglenone on Saturday.

In the Antrim final St Mary’s Rasharkin withstood a strong comeback by St. Paul’s in a sometimes fractious second half to lift the Junior Camogie championship title at Saturday’s venue.

Goals from the outstanding Jade Henry after 11 minutes and a Cora Henderson double late in the half propelled St. Mary’s to a fairly comfortable looking 3-2 to 0-3 lead and indeed that lead could have been greater had it not been for a couple of excellent saves from Orlaith McKnight in the St. Paul’s goals.

St. Paul’s came strong in the second half but Rasharkin defence came into their own and St. Mary’s had done enough in the opening half to win in the end to see them through with that meeting with Ballela a fortnight ago.

Rasharkin got off to an excellent start with points from Jade Henry and Eimer O’Neill inside the opening minute. When Ciara O’Boyle added a third point, the North Antrim side were really motoring. However Aoibhne Magee brought them back down to earth by drilling a free to their net and just five minutes had passed.

Rasharklin responded and O’Boyle and Henry had added points apiece before O’Boyle set Cora Henderson up for a Rasharkin goal in the 17th minute. Again O’Boyle and Henry (from a free) tagged on points and they led by 1-7 to 1-1 at the break.

Tara McAnarney hit back with an excellent point for Ballela on the re-start, but Jade Henry cancelled it when she drilled home a penalty in the 36th minute. Ciara O’Boyle added a point and then a goal inside 30 seconds midway through the half and the Antrim junior champions were following their predecessors by reaching the provincial final.

In fact this will be the fifth successive final that has an Antrim v Derry pairing after Drumsurn had an easy 1-16 to 0-4 win over St Brigid’s in Armagh on Saturday.

Their opponents on Saturday, Drumsurn beat Ballerin in the Derry final which was a repeat of the 2016 final between the two sides. Drumsurn won that one as well and following a resounding win over St. Brigid’s Armagh in the Ulster semi-final will be confident of breaking the Antrim monopoly of the Bridie McMenamin Shield.

They are a good mix of youth and experience with up to a dozen players remaining from that 2016 success and their manager, Martina O’Connor is hoping for a repeat of that result.

 “I think there were around 13 of them on that [2016] panel so just under half the panel have had that experience of the win, but the rest haven’t,” she said in a recent interview.

“We have a lovely blend of youth and experience; three or four of our players are in their 30s, so there is a nice mix there.

“They have a great will to win and a willingness to work; their commitment, attitude and attendance throughout the season has been phenomenal.”

St Matthew’s started the season well but stuttered mid-summer as exams and holidays took their toll. They suffered a defeat to Greenlough that they managed to avenge in the championship.

“Greenlough beat us in the league by a fair amount around that time and I think that was whenever we were going through a patch of exams and holidays,” said Martina, who coaches the team along with Mary O’Kane.

Aimee Carton, Aine Murray, Bronagh McCloskey, Caitlin Cassidy, Cara Doran, Casey Ferris, Catherine McCloskey and Catherine Mullan are just a few of the names that will put their shoulder to the Drumsurn challenge and they will go into the final in confident mood.

Jade Henry has been one of the outstanding performer in a strong Rasharkin side while Cadhla McLernon, Ciara O’Boyle, Eimer O’Neill and Cora Henderson have been outstanding for St. Mary’s ’ this season with Henry likely to come in for close attention from the Drumsurn defence.

There might not be too much in it at the end of 60 minutes at Kelly Park but I expect an in-form Rasharkin to add to their county final success and make it five in a row for Antrim sides in the Bridie McMenamin Shield.

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