Loughgiel should claim another Ulster title

Ulster Senior Camogie Club Final

Athletic Grounds Armagh-Sunday

Loughgiel Shamrocks (Antrim) Liatroim Fontenoys (Down)

Loughgiel bid to claim another Ulster Senior Camogie title when they take on Laoitrim Fontenoys in the decider in Armagh on Sunday at 2pm. The Antrim champions beat Slaughtneil in a first ever semi-final meeting between the sides two weeks ago and will go into Sunday’s showdown as favourites.

In a game that never reached any great heights, Loughgiel came from behind after a low scoring first half which saw Slaughtneil lead 0-4 to 0-1 at the break.

Olivia Rafferty fired over three first half points for the Derry champions while Loughgiel’s only score came from a ‘45’ from Caitrín Dobbin.

Dobbin who recorded the opening score of the second half, added another on the restart before Róisín McCormick pointed four frees between the 40th and 49th minutes to give the Shamrock’s the lead.

Those scores put Loughgiel in command and Dobbin quickly added two from play to take them into the safety zone at 0-8 to 0-4 while Therese Mellon hit Slaughtneil’s only score of the half in added time.

The semi-final win came on the back of five busy weekends for the Loughgiel side with wins over Ballycastle, Dunloy, Ruairi Og and Bridini Og in the Group stages before a 3-10 to 0-8 win over the Cushendall girls in the semi-final.

They followed that up with a win over Ballycastle, who had produced a strong performance to beat Dunloy in the other semi-final, in the Antrim decider.

Two superb goals in the last ten minutes from star forwards Roisin McCormick and Caitrin Dobbin steered Loughgiel to their tenth title in a row at Pairc Mhuire, Cushendall and dashed the hopes of challengers Ballycastle.

Entering the last ten minutes it appeared that Ballycastle’s long search for a senior title might be coming to an end when Aine Donnelly’s point from play brought them within a single point of the champions, after having trailed by six at one stage.

However the introduction of Roisin McCormick (who hadn’t started because of injury) and the re-introduction of Caitrin Dobbin (who had been substituted due to injury in the first half) swung the game back in Loughgiel’s favour, and five minutes later it was all over bar the shouting.

Loughgiel face Liatroim Fontenoys in Sunday’s final in a repeat of a meeting between the same sides back in 1997 which the Shamrock’s won emphatically.

They face a side who have been in good form themselves lately and who collected their 28th Down title with a 0-11 to 2-4 win over Ballygalget in the final in a tension-filled final in Castlewellan that could well have gone against them.

The Fontenoys looked to be coasting but were hit by a goal from Alannah Hagan that brought Ballygalget level at 0-8 to 2-2.

Seconds later a long delivery released Ballygalget’s Dearbhla Magee into the left corner. Magee’s pass found sub Caitlin Davidson who was dragged to the ground inside the area for a penalty. 

However Davidson retaliated, picked up a red card and then saw the penalty decision changed to a throw-in. From that play Ballygalget won a free on the sideline and Nicola Braniff posted a point.

Although Braniff twice edged Ballygalget ahead with frees, Aimee McAleenan from a free and then Karen McMullan tied the teams, befoe McAleenan fired over the winner in the 58th minute to send Liatroim into the Ulster final after a gap of seven years

Sunday’s final is part of a double header at the Athletics Ground with Cushendall and Ballygalget meeting in the hurling semi-final and a big crowd is expected at the Armagh venue.

Laoitrim, who have an Antrim connection this year after St John’s stalwart Paddy Nugent and his son Domnhal took over the management reins, will pin their hopes on Aimee McAleenan who scored 0-9 (0-8f’s) in the Down decider and Karen McMullan for the scores that they will need if they are to regain the Ulster title after a long abscence.

The Shamrock’s side who will start as favourites but they will want to see a bigger spread of scores than they have been producing in recent games. Caitrin Dobbin and Roisin McCormick got all their scores in the semi-final win over Slaughtneil and the vast majority in the Antrim final against Ballycastle. There are plenty more up front with scoring potention and the Loughgiel managent will want so see a few of them get on the board as they bid to add back to back Ulster titles

A young Loughgiel fans watches the action from his dad’s shoulders during the 1997 Ulster final in Laoitrim. Will he be in Armagh to cheer on the Shamrocks again on Sunday

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