Dynamic Dervla sees the Saffrons home

Antrim 5-5
Armagh 0-14 

Four goals from Dervla Cosgrove including three in 84 first-half seconds, and three saves from Áine Graham were among the more notable events as Antrim came out on top of an action-packed Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Premier Junior Camogie Final. 

This was a remarkable end to an inaugural campaign for the county’s second string, finishing in glory at Croke Park less than a year after their flagship side secured senior status by winning the intermediate title. 

This victory suggests that the Saffrons’ production line is in fine working order but Armagh will rue the failure to convert even one of their goal chances, while a catalogue of defensive calamities left Cosgrove in for some of the easiest green flags she will ever register. 

Former Cork star, Jenny Curry was a real threat for Armagh but they could not provide her with sufficient quality supply and in the second half, Antrim made sure the eight-time All-Star was at least doubly attended. 

Player of the match Dervla Cosgrove 13, her sister Sinead and Cushendall club mate Claire Kearney with the cup after their side’s win over Armagh in Croke Park. Pic by John McIlwaine

Cosgrove earned the player-of-the-match plaudits and there could be no arguments about that with her three-goal salvo in under a minute and a half ultimately deciding the match, her fourth major cementing the verdict. 

It was last year’s minor captain, Fionnuala Kelly that made the early impact though, after Armagh had begun confidently with points from Ellie McKee and a brilliant Ciara Donnelly strike. 

Joint team captains Maria McLarnon and Emma Laverty lift the Junior Championship Cup

The teenager, whose sister Maeve was player of the match for the intermediates last year, split the posts to get the team managed by Brian Kearney and Mark McFadden off the mark and then goaled in the eighth minute following a move started by Anna McNeill. When Cosgrove’s cross generated only the minutest of heavy touches from Ciarrai Devlin, Kelly was in like a flash to bat to the net. 

Curry, following a fantastic Donnelly delivery, and Rachael Merry settled Armagh with points but Cosgrove’s treble from the 21st to the 23rd minutes blew the game apart and left Jim McKernan’s crew playing catch-up. 

Megan McGarry with her granny Ita after the game

His defence had been marked absent too often in that period and the Antrim native, who was joint manager of last year’s successful Antrim intermediate team, made two substitutions that helped shore things up for Armagh. 

You sensed that the damage had been done and though Sinéád Quinn, Michelle McArdle and Donnelly (two) pointed, the Orchard women trailed by 4-3 to 0-9 at the interval. 

It could have been very different but goalkeeping is clearly in the Graham genes as Áine, sister of senior netminder Caitrin, was extremely alert between the posts. Donnelly, after being set up by Curry, also rattled a shot off the butt of the upright. 

Armagh gradually reassumed control in terms of play at least in the second half, and when Curry pointed in the 47th minute after a trademark flick, easy pick-up, side-step and finish, the margin was down to three. 

Nuala Devlin solos in towards goal in the move which led to Antrim’s fifth goal

Cosgrove’s close range finish after Devlin’s stupendous save from Nuala Devlin a minute later, followed by another Graham save from McArdle helped Antrim close it out. 

ANTRIM: A Graham, M McLarnon, E Kearns, E McShane, C Crawford, M McGarry, S Cosgrove, C Kearney, A McNeill, O Laverty, C McNaughton, Bríd Magill, E Laverty, D Cosgrove, F Kelly. Subs: N Devlin for O Laverty (39); Brónach Magill for S Cosgrove (47); E Leech for McNaughton (51); T O’Neill for Kelly 

ARMAGH: C Devlin, M Lenehan, N Woods, E O’Kane, G McCann, E Hayes, T Maguire, M McArdle, L Donnelly, C Doyle, C Donnelly, E McKee, R Merry, J Curry, S Quinn. Subs: E Lavery for Lenehan, C O’Kane for Woods (both 26); B Murray for McKee (34); K Comiskey for Merry (40); E Smyth for Doyle (55) 

SCORERS FOR ANTRIM: D Cosgrove 4-2(); F Kelly 1-2; E Leech 0-1 

SCORERS FOR ARMAGH: C Donnelly 0-5(3fs); J Curry 0-2; M McArdle, L Donnelly, E McKee, R Merry, S Quinn, E Smyth, K Comiskey 0-1 each 

REFEREE: Mike Ryan (Tipperary) 

Laverty delighted to be back

Last September, Emma Laverty was a maelstrom of emotion. There was some happiness for her friends but the prevailing feeling was one of devastation. 

She had been an integral part of the rebuilding of Antrim camogie, one of the more senior players providing the necessary glue as prodigious, nascent talent poured forth from the underage and schools’ systems. 

Reaching the All-Ireland intermediate final in 2020 seemed merely a rung on the ladder to inevitable progression and Laverty began the following season committed to that cause. 

But while Maeve Kelly and Róisín McCormick were taking to Croke Park as to the manor born, Laverty was in civvies. 

Making the decision to step away had been difficult, nay heart-wrenching. She was accustomed to spending a lot of time with the same group of people that she would now not see much of and she knew that she might be giving up on something she had dreamed of in the saffront jersey.  

But the increased commitment required as Antrim looked to beef up their conditioning programme on the back of coming off second best in the physical exchanges against Down, was a problem. 

She had been part of the collective agreement that it was necessary but as an interior architect at Belfast-based firm Todd Architects, it meant an increase in mileage. She tried to make it work but the demands began to take their toll on mind and body. Inevitably, her form suffered, so she made the call to step away and get back to enjoying her camogie with Ballycastle. 

After Antrim defeated Kilkenny to secure senior status, it was decided that perhaps it would be a good time to field a second team, to help blood emerging players and keep others just on the periphery involved.  

Brian Kearney and Mark McFadden were appointed managers. Kearney knew Laverty, very well as it happens, as she is going out with his son David. He got in her ear, knowing that someone of her ability and experience would be invaluable to a project many in the county considered doomed. 

In truth, she didn’t need much persuading and was honoured to be appointed joint-captain with Maria McLarnon. Now, they are an hour away from securing the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Premier Junior title on Sunday, with Armagh, managed ironically by Jim McKernan, who stepped down with Paul McKillen as manager of the intermediates after their All-Ireland success last year, and who Laverty knows so well, in the opposite corner (throw-in 12pm – Live on RTÉ2).  

“I took a second chance,” Laverty admits. “Brian was chatting to me about coming back and there was that devastation of, you could have had an All-Ireland. That’s what’s been in my head the whole year. It’s in all our heads now to win the All-Ireland but I stepped away myself last year so it’s a personal thing for me.” 

She understands why Kearney and McFadden turned to her and McLarnon to share the leadership responsibilities. 

“I suppose we’ve just got that experience of playing so long. You’re confident in yourself to speak out and correct things and lead the girls. We’ve a lot of young ones just out of minor, so they need that experience around them. 

“It goes (in age) from a lot of ones just out of minors and then a bit of a gap to those of us in our late 20s. We’ve so many girls with so much potential to be on that senior team. This was our first (junior) team together and it was some girls’ first team at county. No one had seen the potential, whereas now, we’re just completely rebuilding.” 

It has been a remarkable few years for Antrim camogie. 

“For a long time, when I was coming through, we couldn’t even get a county team together and it was just dying. It just took one group of girls to commit together and everyone pushed on. They’ve a great set-up. It’s unbelievable now. We’ve gear, we’ve food after training. There’s so much commitment from the county board, management, everything.” 

It took two periods of extra time to get over Clare in a remarkable semi-final, Megan McGarry hitting the winner from a free. 

“When we came home, we went to Cushendall and the place was bunged with people. Everyone’s just been talking about it since. It’s crazy. Credit to Clare. They pushed us to the very end and obviously it was gonna be a tough defeat, no matter what, but we’re just happy we got the win! 

“I came off with cramp and I was just, ‘Get me back on the pitch.’ The whole team was, ‘We cannot lose this.’ The effort we’d put in. We were thinking about that All-Ireland final. 

“Megan’s free was unbelievable. Some girls, I don’t know how they were coming out with the ball at the end of the match, running up the pitch. Some girls played the full game and I don’t know how they did it.” 

After missing out last year, Laverty will, like everyone else on the Antrim panel, be playing at Croke Park for the first time. But she knows not to let that, or anything else, become an overpowering factor. 

“We’ve said it, not to let the occasion, that it’s in Croke Park, take away from the fact you’re in an All-Ireland final. You have to win. Imagine standing on that pitch feeling the defeat It would be terrible. So we’re training hard and heads are settled.” 

Good starts to each half gave Laois the edge

Tesco All-Ireland under 16B Camogie final

Laois 4-7 Antrim 3-7

Gallant Antrim come up just short

Pics by Mickey Morgan

Strong starts to each half, which saw Laois grab two goals in both periods, were a body blow which Antrim just could not recover from in Sunday’s All Ireland Under 16 B Camogie final at Dogheda. The young Saffron battled all the way and by half time had recovered well to trail by just two points (2-4 to 1-5). Orla McAlister reduced the deficit to just a single point after the restart, but Laois struck again with a quickfire double and when they stretched their lead out to nine with ten minutes to go, Antrim had a mountain to climb. To their credit the young Saffrons made a great effort and when hero of the semi-final Janey McIntosh got a goal they was hope once again.

The excitement really built when Eobha McAlister fired home to leave just three between the sides and those final minutes were filled with tension as they battled to save the game. However the Laois girls withstood the challenge and held on for the win on a scoreline of 4-7 to 3-7.

Defeat is hard to take, but it has been a great season for this team and their management. Looking back they have an Ulster title to celebrate and it could so easily have been an All Ireland as well, had they got the break of the ball on a few occasions on Sunday.

Antrim : E McGivern, C Boylan, A O’ Donnell, A Ferris, L Black, A McNeill capt, E Connolly, S Heggarty, M Devlin, E McAlister 1-0, O McAlister 0-4 (2fs), O McCurry, K McNeill, J McIntosh 2-2, C McNicholl

Subs: L McGarry for L Black (17), C Duffin 0-1 for O McCurry (42), C Duncan for C McNicholl (48).

Laois: M Henderson, A Delaney, A Guilfoyle, K Dwyer, E Carroll, L O’Connor, A Cuddy, S Slevin, C Cuddy, C Kirby, A Stynes, A Byrne 0-5 (fs), A Kirby 2-1, K O’Keefe 2-1, A Daly.

Subs: A Gee for A Stynes (21), JA Bennett for A Delaney (48).

Referee: EP Cassidy (Derry)

Antrim Camogie press night

A very assured interview by Under 16 captain Abi McNeill

Unfortuately the weather was far from ideal for the Antrim Camogie Press Night in Loughgiel for the Junior and Under 16 teams who are preparing for thier All Ireland finals, the Under 16s in Drogheda on Sunday against Laois and the Juniors in Croke Park against Armagh on Sunday week. However the young fans who turned up did not mind as they got the chance to meet the players and get autographs signed.

Jerome Quinn Media were there to do some interviews