Tara come close but Ballymacnab book semi-final spot

All-Ireland Junior camogie quarter-final

Ballymacnab (Armagh) 1-11 Tara (London) 2-7
IT HAS been a busy but successful weekend for Armagh champions Ballymacnab. Having won their first Ulster club title on Friday evening with a 2-4 to 2-2 win over Banagher, they edged home in Glenavy on Sunday against Tara from London.But if anyone had said after the first quarter that this game was going to be a nail-biter, not many would have believed it for Ballymacnab looked to be coasting after dominating the play and going into a 1-6 to 0-2 lead.

Eimear Smyth and Aoibhinn O’Hare were troubling the visitors’ defence while the half-back line of Louise Toner and the Crillys pinned Tara back into their own half.Aoife Crilly’s shot for a point from out on the wing wasn’t properly cleared in the 8th minute and Aoibhinn O’Hare fired home from 20 metres. There then followed a run of five points in five minutes from three Eimear Smyth frees, Emma McParland and Shelly McArdle.Claire Ryan had scored Tara’s two points, both from frees, and the only threat coming from Tara seemed to be Loughgiel’s Laura Connolly who had a superb game at midfield.The game turned however after 20 minutes when another free from Ryan dropped around the goal area and Kerry Sommers swept it home. Connolly added an excellent point and the London side were just three points down at the break, 1-6 to 1-3.

The arrival of sub Tessa Crowley to midfield lifted Tara for the second half. She was involved in the three scores that brought her side back into contention after Smyth had opened the half with two pointed frees for Ballymacnab.Crowley pointed frees in the 10th and 19th minute but a third effort in between fell short and again Kerry Sommers was on hand to find the net. Thus the teams were level 2-5 to 1-8 with ten minutes remaining. Smyth, from a free, and Connolly swopped points, but a Tara defender was penalised for a high tackle for an easy point for Smyth with Aoibhinn O’Hara bursting through for a second score.

Tara sub Paula Dunne scored an excellent point in reply, but time ran out for the exiles and Ballymacnab claimed their place in next month’s All-Ireland semi-final by the narrowest of margins.

Ballymacnab : C Toner, M O’Toole, T Maguire, A McParland, L Toner, A Crilly, C Crilly, D McKee, Á Maguire, M McAleavey, M McArdle 0-1, A O’Hare 1-1, E McParland 0-1, E Smyth 0-8 frees, E McKee 1-0.Subs : L Smith for D McKee (30), M McParland for E Mckee (53), M McCone for L Toner (48), G Gray for A Crilly (62).

Tara : L Hawkes, E Kelly, C Killeen, A Flynn, J Traynor, S mcNicholl, A O’Meara, K O’Keefe, F Morrisey capt., E Hogan, C Ryan 0-2 frees, L Connolly 0-2, K Sommers 2-0, S Glynn, H Murphy.Subs : P Dunne 0-1 for K O’Keefe (HT), T Crowley 0-2 frees for J Traynor (33).Referee : P McDonnell (Cavan).

Pics by Bert Trowlen

Graham Lauds Team Effort

Bridie McMenamin Cup final

By Liam Tunney

“That was a real game,” remarked St Mary’s Ahoghill manager Dermot Graham after his side clinched the Bridie McMenamin Shield in Saturday’s thrilling final in Lavey.

“In all the other games, we were so far ahead of the opposition it was unbelievable” explained a beaming Graham as the raucous celebrations continued behind him.

Of the 15-39 scored by the Cloney side in their last three games, 10-09 of that came from the well-worn hurl of Noreen Graham. Even more impressively, the full-forward only played in two of them.

Graham acknowledged her importance but was keen to stress how she was well-assisted by those around her after being closely marshalled by a well-prepared Lavey defensive unit.

“Noreen Graham would be looked on as a real scorer, but Lavey double-marked her and we found it more difficult to get ball into her. Thank God the other girls stood up when they were needed and got the scores.”

After Graham’s 58th minute rocket the cake was iced by Paula Gribbin in the final minute, a redemptive moment for the half-forward who suffered the bereavement of her father during the season.

The heartbreak of loss is something that the team feels keenly, with Ciara and Brona McGuigan also suffering the loss of their sister Claire earlier in the year and Graham touched on the day’s emotion.

“The year Paula has had along with Brona and Ciara McGuigan, it’s a nice finish for all of them to have. It’s really, really brilliant, a really, really good feeling.”

Captain Fiona Blaney hinted in her victory speech about the influence of the manager in driving their success during the season and hinted at the possibility of another term at the helm for Dermot, who will be no doubt keen to keep the momentum going from this season.

“The camogie team had been struggling for a while and when we started going on this bit of a run in championship you could feel the momentum there.”

“We were getting better numbers at training and girls seemed to get that bit of enthusiasm for it,” he continued, “and as everybody knows, a win really gels people together. That really showed out there today when it was needed.”

With the talent in their ranks and momentum behind them, Graham’s Girls will be hoping he remains in the dug out next season.

Cancer charites receive the proceeds of the Light Up for Paul campaign.

£15,700.00  raised for local cancer charities

At Páirc Úi Cheallaigh, Portglenone, on Saturday afternoon, two local Cancer Charities benefited from the recent fundraising efforts of Roger Casements GAC and the McKeever Family in memory of former Gael Paul McKeever who tragically lost his life to this terrible disease in 2019. The fundraising comprised of a few elements in response to the ‘Light up for Paul’ campaign held recently which saw a huge response from clubs all over Antrim, Ulster and far off fields; the gate to the Casements GAC v Lamh Dhearg Senior Championship 2nd replay at All Saints, Ballymena and the gate at the replayed O’Cahan Cup Final. As a result, a massive total of £15,700.00 was raised for the two local cancer charities selected by the McKeever Family.

A cheque for £7850.00 was presented by Nicola McKeever and the Casements U10/12s to Claire Hogarth on behalf of the Friends of the Cancer Centre, while Sarah-Jane Holden of Cancer Focus N.I. received a cheque for £7850.00

The Casements club and the McKeever family would like to thank everyone who donated so generously in memory of Paul and also we would like to thank everyone who gave up their time to help with this massive fundraising effort.  

Celebrations continue at Cloney

The celebration just had about enough time to die down in Gulladuff when it was onto the Acorn Centre in Ahoghill and a night of celebration for the St. Mary’s Ahoghill Camogs and their supporters.

The Saffron Gael were there in force as St. Mary’s defeated Lavey in the Bridie McMenamin Shield final and we were there again at a packed Acorn Centre to capture the celebrations.

Late Goals Seal Ulster Title For Ahoghill

By Liam Tunney

St Mary’s Ahoghill (Aontroim)                 3-10

Erin’s Own Lavey (Doire)            2-07

Feature photo –

THIS ONE’S FOR CLAIRE
A highly emotional moment as Ciara and Brona McGuigan hold a photograph of thier late sister Claire during celebrations at the final whistle. The team were not able to wear their specially commissioned club jerseys in memory of Claire during the game because of a colour clash with Lavey but changed at the final whistle before starting their celebrations

Goals in the 58th and 60th minutes from Noreen Graham and Paula Gribbin saw St Mary’s Ahoghill shake off the dogged challenge of Erin’s Own and break the Derry side’s passionate resolve to claim the Bridie McMenamin Shield in Lavey on Saturday afternoon.

The late goals brought to an end a gripping encounter in near-perfect conditions. Cloney’s undoubted class had seen them race into an early lead, but Shauneen McCann’s 12th minute free found the St Mary’s net and shook Lavey into the game.

Noreen Graham celebrates afters scoring a 58th minute goal

Trailing by a single point at the break, they were level within seconds of the second half beginning and despite being rocked by Noreen Graham’s first goal, the Derry girls battled back immediately to go ahead through a Claire Madden major.

Lavey found themselves level with two to play before Graham and Gribbin struck the killer blows to finally seal victory.

Before the match, the name ringing in the Lavey defence’s ears would no doubt have been Noreen Graham and the free-scoring full forward shot Ahoghill ahead after just 2 minutes, taking a neat touch and dispatching the sliotar from 25 yards.

Caitríona Graham then doubled the lead with the first of seven frees, in an exhibition of the art, before Noreen fired over her second as a rampant Cloney burst to life, but the hosts soon began to exert their physicality on the game.

Penning Ahoghill in their own half for a five-minute spell, the Erin’s Own side pushed to trouble the scoresheet. Tigerish Cloney defending managed to reduce them to one shot from Kerri Chivers that was superbly blocked by Eadaoin McGarry but Lavey finally reaped reward for their efforts in the 12th minute.

A perfectly timed tackle from Emma Scullion on a rampaging Caitríona Graham overturned possession and Lavey won a free 50 yards from goal on the counter. McCann’s effort dropped straight in over the heads of the Cloney defenders and into the net to draw them level.

Player of the match Maura Downey punches the air after scoring a second half point

Buoyed by the goal, Lavey’s intensity upped and another superb dispossession by Maria McGill followed, the counter-attack this time ending in the hand of Claire Madden who slotted her side into the lead.

Ahoghill responded immediately and took the lead with a brace of Caitríona Graham frees. The composed midfielder then traded 0-02 with Claire Madden to see the Antrim champions leading by a single point at the break.

Cara McGoldrick, introduced just before the break, fired Lavey level within seconds of the restart, but before the cheers had subsided, Noreen Graham rocked them back on their heels. Maura Downey’s low shot was superbly saved by Emma Harkin, but the tireless half-forward recycled the ball to the waiting Graham who lashed the ball to the bottom corner of Harkin’s net.

With the exceptional Laura Scullion turning ball after ball from the Lavey defence, they came again and Shauneen McCann notched her first point of the game in response. The Derry side then wrestled back the lead, Claire Madden getting the final touch to turn in Una McCloy’s crossed hand-pass.

Panic momentarily set in for Ahoghill and Eimear Drumm, sweeping in front of Harkin’s goal, claimed three balls in a row as wayward Ahoghill passing rained down on her. The action became frantic with goal chances ebbing and flowing at both ends and gripping the large crowd in tense anticipation.

It took twelve exhilarating minutes of mayhem before Caitríona Graham restored both order and parity, her 47th minute free levelling the scores and settling Cloney, who went ahead immediately afterwards through a Maura Downey point.

A further Graham free extended the lead to two, but Erin’s Own refused to go quietly. Claire Madden landed a 45 to reduce the arrears before Shauneen McCann slotted a 54th minute free to see the sides level yet again.

Lavey threw everything at St Mary’s and after an almighty scramble had yielded the 45 for Madden’s score, they looked to be in again after a slack puck out fell to Cathy Convery. The Cloney masses regrouped, swarming Convery, who was eventually penalised for overcarrying.

Ahoghill took full advantage.

Ahoghill’s Paula Gribben wins possession

A raking clearance landed with Noreen Graham who took off on a trademark run before arrowing a shot into the top right-hand corner of the Lavey net. With Erin’s Own visibly rocked, Paula Gribbin nipped in for their third, keeping her cool to finish past Harkin and ignite the celebrations.

An emotional win for the Ahoghill side, whose customised jerseys bearing the name of young Ahoghill Gael Claire McGuigan materialised on their backs as if they’d always been there.

Claire passed away earlier in the year and the image of sisters Ciara and Brona holding her photograph above the thronged celebrations indicated what the win meant for the Cloney club.

“In an Ulster Club game you never know what you’re going to get” remarked Ahoghill manager Dermot Graham afterwards.

What we got was an outstanding game of camogie, decided by moments of sheer quality and one in which both teams can look back on with justified pride.

St Mary’s: Angela Graham, Nicola Doherty, Mairead McCloskey, Sinead McKenna, Emma McGlone, Eadaoin McGarry, Caitlin McLaughlin, Caitríona Graham (0-07f), Fiona Blaney, Paula Gribbin, Aine Graham, Maura Downey (0-01), Ann Marie O’Neill, Noreen Graham (2-02), Ciara McGuigan.

Subs: Marian Graham for Caitlin McLaughlin 28’, Bronagh Graffin for Ann Marie O’Neill 35’.

Erin’s Own: Emma Harkin, Catilin McWilliams, Eimear Drumm, Emma Scullion, Maria McGill, Laura Scullion, Katie Taylor, Lia Kelly, Maria Mulholland, Anna Rafferty, Kerri Chivers, Shauneen McCann (1-02f), Cathy Convery (0-01), Claire Madden (1-01, 0-01f, 0-01 – 45), Una McCloy.

Subs: Cara McGoldrick (0-01) for Katie Taylor 29’.

Referee: Phillip McDonald (An Cabhán)

MARY JOINS IN THE CELEBRATIONS

Mary Butler with Ahoghill team captain Fiona Blaney

Joining in the Ahoghill celebrations was Mary Butler (née McFaul) who played on the club side that won their first Antrim senior championship in 1948, two years after she helped Antrim win the 1946 All-Ireland senior final with victory over Galway in MacRory Park, Belfast.

“I have really enjoyed today. It was a great finish and a great win for Ahoghill.

“I don’t remember too much about the All-Ireland final or the championship final in the 40s – sure I was only a teenager at the time and I thought that I would win more. But I didn’t.

“It’s great to see these girls enjoying themselves after winning.”

And Mary is hoping to get to another Ulster final next month just before her 90th birthday.

“Yes, I have a grand-daughter Charlene (Campbell) who is playing for Loughgiel against Slaughtneil in the Ulster (senior) final. I gave her my All-Ireland medal a few years ago. I would love to see her win and that would be a great birthday present for me.”