That well-worn cliché, ‘A game of two halves’ certainly applied in this enthralling Corn Uan Uladh semi-final game in Ahoghill today when St. Louis Ballymena staged a remarkable second half comeback to overturn St. Patrick’s Maghera’s 12 point half time lead and advance to the final against Cross & Passion Ballycastle in Ballymena on Saturday.
The first half belonged to the Derry girls and while they were not as dominating as their half time lead suggested, they never the less appeared to have one foot in Saturday’s final when they led 4-4 to 0-4 as the half time whistle sounded.
St. Louis and their opponents St. Patrick’s lined out in very similar colours at the start of this game in Cloney and St. Louis manager, Chloe Draine decided to turn her sides shirts inside out for the second half and while this was not the reason for her side’s remarkable rally it certainly made players much easier to identify as the second half action got under way
St Louis opened brightly with points from Dunloy pair Kyra Doherty and Katie Molloy (2) inside the first five minutes and looked impressive during these opening exchanges.
By the 10th minute they had conceded three goals however and questions would have to be asked about their defending with St. Patrick’s coming up against only minimum resistance as they penetrated the Ballymena rear guard.
The first came with a long ball out of defence for Carla McEldowney in the right corner and on both occasions a low cross was picked up by Aimee Lennon for the first two goals. Then Bellaghy club-mate Caoimhe Chambers finished the third goal and again the St. Louis marking was poor.
St Louis were forced to bring Katie Molloy back as sweeper to close out the goal threat and it left the Kintullagh girls missing her influence in attack. There was a bit of fortune with Maghera’s fourth goal at the end of the first quarter with goalie Orlagh Convery seeming to lose site of Evanne Martin’s shot in the blinding sun and it ended in the net.
Maghera continued to press during the remainder of the half and looked to be in pole position when they led 4-4 to 0-4 at the change of ends with St. Louis getting a late point from Anna McKillop.
With the change of tops seemed to come a change in attitude from the Ballymena side and Kyra Doherty got the second half off to a flying start with a goal and when Anna McKillop added a second after 36 minutes, St Louis supporters and their side dared to dream.
The momentum was now very much with St. Louis as they battled for every ball, knocking the opposition out of their stride and minutes before the second water break Katie Molloy drove through the centre and fired to the net to leave just two points between the teams at 3-6 to 4-5.
Anna McKillop’s point from a free left just one in it and the Cullybackey Road girls had the scent of victory in their nostrils as the final quarter got under way and the excellent Anna McKillop fired in a fourth Ballymena goal to level the tie.
The action continued to flow in the direction of the Maghera goal and Eimear Johnston might well have had a fifth Ballymena goal minutes later, but her shot skimmed over the cross-bar instead.
St. Patrick’s had been fighting a rear guard action for the greater part of the second half and finding it difficult to find a way through a now much more organised St. Louis defence but they broke forward and Evanne Martin levelled from a free and the game was still in the melting pot.
St. Louis were not to be denied however and McKillop knocked over the winning point from a dead ball four minutes from the end. There were a couple of late chances for Maghera to take it to extra time, but St Louis held on to make it an all-north Antrim derby with Cross & Passion Ballycastle in the final for the third time out of the last four.
CPC had things all their own way in the other semi-final against St Mary’s Magherafelt in Ballymena, scoring eight goals and five points in the first half alone and five of those from Cassie McArthur.
St Louis: Orlagh Convery, Susan Shannon, Orla Kane, Grace Kearns, Erin Coulter, Dearbhail Dobbin, Sarah Fyfe, Eimear Johnstone 0-1, Katie Molloy 1-2, Carlina Sullivan, Cliodhna Griffin, Anna McKillop 2-4, 0-3 frees, Niamh Neeson, Kyra Doherty 1-1 capt, Ciara O’Boyle.
Subs: Anna McKillen for O Kane (HT), Maria Gately for C O’Boyle (HT), Aoibhinn Cosgrove for C Sullivan (38).
St Patrick’s: Annie Ní Lochlainn, Alicia Gillen, Leah Lennon capt, Erin Kelly, Emer Doherty, Orlaith Hull, Abi McNeill, Evanne Martin 1-4, 0-3 frees, Emer Murray, Cara Donnelly, Blanaid McLaughlin 0-1, Doireann Donnelly, Carla McEldowney 0-1, Aimee Lennon 2-1, Caoimhe Chambers 1-0.
Subs: Emma Collins for C Donnelly (HT), Caoimhe Kearney for D Donnelly (40), Mary Murray for E Murray (48).
Cross & Passion College Ballycastle scored a runaway win over St Mary’s Magherafelt in Monday’s Senior Colleges Camogie semi-final at Quinn Park, Ballymena.
With Cassie McArthur unplayable at full forward CPC raced to a 6-4 to 0-0 lead, McArthur getting four of them. St Mary’s got on the scoreboard when Kate Connery pointed from a free and they added another midway through the second quarter. However the Ballycastle girls pressed on and were 8-5 to 0-2 up the break.
The second half saw more of the same as CPC pushed on to a final meeting with St Louis on Saturday morning at 11am.
Sophie Donnelly, Anna McErlain, Catherine Cassidy, Aine Colgan, Emma McAteer, Emily Cullen, Niamh Boyle, Alexa Hastings, Amy-Rose Mulligan, Kate Connery, Maria O’Neill, Emma McNally, Ella McErlain, Sarrah O’Neill, Rachel Keenan.
Antrim manager Darren Gleeson felt that the first half of Sunday’s defeat to Offaly was the worst performance he has withnessed since taking charge of Antrim,
“A very disappointing first 37 or 38 minutes in the first half.
I genuinely felt that was as poor a first half of hurling we have played in my time here.
We just lost every battle, every individual battle, didn’t look hungry for it, then lost a man to two yellow cards.
That happens, but I think we then mentally switched on after that happened and we came to life a bit. Looking at it on the other side, maybe Offaly felt they had their work done.”
The Tippeary native went on to add “It was a good second half performance – I can’t fault that second half. A few bodies came in who made a big difference, but again, our old failings were there. We gave away too many soft scores and I’d say we had six or seven goal chances.”
“You can be positive too far. The fact of the matter is that when you are playing inter-county hurling, you’ve got to be ruthless and if you’re not ruthless, you’re not going to be winning games.
It’s a pre-season game so it is what it is. Both teams are in the middle of a training cycle and the results that matter will come in the league, but all counties are improving and we need to keep our progress chart going in the right direction.”
Antrim’s final game in the Walsh Cup is against Galway next Sunday at Abbotstown , a Galway team who lost heavily on Sunday to Dublin at Parnell Park.
Antrim Minor hurlers got their season up and running with a challenge game, in excellent conditions, against Laois in the GAA Centre of Excellent in Abbotstown. In what was a very competitive work out for the young Saffs, with all players getting 40mins game time. Laois eventually came out on top on a scoreline of 2-22 to 0-21. Antrim will learn alot from their first outing this year to take into their next game in two weeks time against Kildare in Leixlip. The Antrim Minor squad for 2022 Joe McNaughton Pearce Patterson Kevin O’Boyle Liam Glackin Cailin Devlin Aodhan McGarry Malachi McGibbon Patrick McIlwaine Darragh Patterson Ben McGarry Lorcán Phillips Cormac McKeown Orrin O’Connor Jack McCloskey Darragh Kelly Cahir Carbery Adam murray Brogan O’Connor Callum McIlwaine Caoimhin Rainey Cathán Graham Charley O’Hagan Ciarán McAllister Donal Martin Joseph McLaughlin Michael Darragh Niall Magee Oisin McCamphill Phelim Ward Ruairi McAreavey