Corn Uan Uladh final
Saturday 11am in All Saints, Ballymena
Cross & Passion Ballycastle v St Louis Ballymena
AFTER running Cross and Passion so close in last season’s Corn Uan Uladh final, St Louis Ballymena will believe that they have every chance of stopping their north Antrim neighbours making it three in a row for the first time in the province’s top schools’ camogie competition.
However everyone else is banking on an extension to Ballycastle’s reign and they certainly have the statistics to support them.
CPC can still call on Maeve Kelly (left) and Roisin McCormick, two of the stars of last year’s team. pics by Dylan McIlwaine
CPC have over half of last year’s teams still available. That was a team that came within a couple of points of winning a first All-Ireland senior title for the school. The school has just completed four in a row of Junior titles, a strong supply line for the seniors, while the seniors have blitzed everyone in sight in the group and knock-out stages, including a 5-20 to 1-3 win over St Louis Ballymena at the start of November!
Ballycastle also have four players on the Ulster schools’ All-star select, Maeve Kelly, Roisin McCormick, Charlie McCarry and Anna Connolly, and all four have two All-Ireland minor championships under their belts with Antrim. Indeed the first two are still under-age for the minors this year and have already represented their county at senior level.
McCormick scored 2-11 in the 4-26 to 2-3 semi-final mauling of St Mary’s Magherafelt and is a huge headache for St Louis Ballymena management ahead of the decider.
However she was well-curtailed in last year’s final with the challengers able to restrict her to just one score from open play although the Loughgiel ace did score five frees in the 0-8 to 1-3 win for her side. St Louis will aim for a similar score-line for this game, preventing a Ballycastle goal and hoping that they can break for a couple more scores than last January.
Just before Christmas in the semi-final, St Louis came from 2-5 to 0-3 down early in the second half and from 2-7 to 0-6 at the start of the last quarter to beat Maghera in similar circumstances to last year’s semi-final – they were the better team, but struggled to get over the line.
St Louis have three current All-stars, goalie Áine Graham and forwards Maura Downey and Kimberley Burke, but it was another Antrim minor, Caitlin Crawford, who impressed most in the fightback against Maghera.
With a number of strong Dunloy players from their under 16 Antrim championship winning squad, Loughgiel’s Mary McKillen as well as a few of the Brídíní Óga Glenravel players who have impressed at inter-county level in recent years, St Louis Ballymena have a strong enough panel of players.
However it is difficult to ignore the fact that they have not won at the top level through their school careers and have struggled in the two games against Maghera. And they were totally outclassed in Ballycastle in the league encounter.
If the game can be kept to the low-scoring tussle of last year, and Ballycastle fail to find the net, then St Louis have a chance. But everything points to Cross and Passion continuing their domination of camogie at the top level.
Cross and Passion : S McKillop, A McClafferty, M McGarry, E McShane, A O’Mullan, M O’Neill, C Laverty, M Kelly, K Laverty, A Magill, R McCormick capt, A Connolly, A Toner, C McCarry, R McBride
Subs : C Mathers, A Lynn, C McGarry, S Richmond, C McKeague, C Hegarty, E Kyle, B Ellis
St Louis : A Graham capt, L McAleese, E Kearns, B Delargy, B Laverty, E McMullan, K Mullan, C Molloy, M Downey, E McAreevey, K Burke, S Darragh, M McKillen, E Traynor, C Crawford
Subs : C Martin, N Martin, M Henry, A Johnson, C McGaughey, M McMullan, D Graffin, S McIlhatton, A McGilligan, A Traynor, A McCloskey, E Hardy, C McCormick, N Neeson, E McNeill, N McNeill, C McStravick