In wet conditions on Saturday morning at the facilities of O’Donovan Rossa, Magherafelt, the young camogs of Derry and Antrim met in what should have been a 3 team Ulster U14 ‘A’ grade blitz competition. However with Down pulling out at short notice being unable to field, this left the neighbours to fight for the bragging rights. Derry sprung out of the traps well and were putting the points on the scoreboard, but as is the case in so many matches, the water break disrupts momentum. Antrim were glad to hear the whistle and they were able to get their girls regrouped and more focussed. On the restart – play was ‘nip and tuck’. In a game played with full commitment – every ball was contested and space was very hard to find.The whistle sounded to end the half with Antrim up by 2 points – Derry 2:08 – Antrim 4:04.
In the 2nd half Derry got to grips with Antrim’s dangerous forwards, whilst their own took some great scores and indeed any indiscretions in Antrim’s defence were punished by the accuracy of the Derry free taker. For the next 30 mins the crowd were treated to some great play from both teams . Derry looked like they would pull away from Antrim only to be pegged back by Antrim goals. Antrim tired in the final 10 mins and Derry ran out fully deserving winners on a scoreline of Derry 5:16 – Antrim 6:06
Antrim’s dream of winning back the All Ireland Junior Football title were dashed at Croke Park on Sunday by a slick moving Wicklow side who played some great football on their way to a an eleven point win.
Wicklow full forward Meadhbh Deeney scored the crucial second goal to shake off Antrim’s comeback as Wicklow made amends for last year’s final defeat to claim the West County Hotel Cup with victory in the TG4 All-Ireland Junior Championship Final.
Antrim struggled to get to the pace of the game in the opening half and Wicklow were already well on the way by half-time when they took a 0-10 to 0-3 lead into the break. If the Saffrons were to get back into the game they needed a good start to the second half but after the restart Clodagh Fox scored the first goal for the girls from the Garden County and it was all uphill from then on for the Saffrons.
Wicklow took the lead in the fourth minute when Deeney scored, and the Leinster outfit continued to pile on the pressure. Deeney doubled her tally and Catherine Dempsey got in on the act when Wicklow could have had a goal.
Top-scorer Marie Kealy scored her first point from a free in the tenth minute, and after an heroic block by Wicklow captain Sarah Jane Winders down the other end, Kealy tapped over another.
Antrim looked in real trouble as they trailed by 0-06 to 0-00 after 11 minutes but they got their first point moments later when McLaughlin fired over from the ground.
Wicklow held that five-point advantage up to the first water break and Dempsey extended it with her second score.
Antrim started to provide more of a threat up front and their attack was spear-headed by McLaughlin. She scored a couple of points either side of another Fox effort.
Fox and Kealy combined to bring Wicklow’s tally into double-digits and the deserved to be seven points clear at the interval.
Antrim needed to start fast in the second half but instead Wicklow found the net through Fox in the 31st minute. She got through Áine Tubridy’s tackle and finished high past Anna McCann in the Antrim goal.
Moments later Maeve Blaney stopped Deeney’s goal-bound effort on the line but Wicklow continued to drive forward, and when Laurie Ahern scored in the 43rd minute all six of the starting Wicklow forwards had contributed to the scoreboard.
They were 1-15 to 0-05 ahead at the second water break but Antrim kept on battling and their fans were rewarded when Grainne McLaughlin broke through to score a stunning goal in the 52nd minute when she rocketed a shot low to Linda Dempsey’s bottom left corner.
The Saffron (and Pink) clad followers finally had something to celebrate but the ‘buzz’ did not last long as one minute later Deeney put the game beyond doubt when she scrambled the ball over the line at the other end.
Scorers – Wicklow: M Deeney 1-04, C Fox 1-03, C Dempsey 0-04, M Kealy 0-03 (1f), R McGettigan 0-01, L Ahern 0-01, S McGettigan 0-01.
Antrim: G McLaughlin 1-05 (0-01 pen), C Carey 0-03 (0-03f), C Brown 0-01.
Wicklow: L Dempsey; M Healy, SJ Winders, L Dunne; L Fusciardi, A Conroy, A Gillen; N McGettigan, S Delahunt; R McGettigan, M Kealy, L Ahern; C Fox, C Dempsey, M Deeney. Subs: S McGettigan for R McGettigan (37), K Hennessy for Gillen (42), E Parke for Kealy (54), P Faulkner for Dunne (58), A Burke for Ahern (58).
Antrim: A McCann; N McIntosh, A McFarland, D Coleman; M Blaney, M Hanna, Á Tubridy; C Brown, E Ferran; G McLaughlin, C Carey, N Enright; C Taggart, M Magee, A Taggart. Subs: O Corr for Hanna (36), T Mellon for A Taggart (36), E Morgan for C Taggart (45), M O’Neill for Enright (53), N Webb for Coleman (58).
Antrim met their Tyrone counterparts in the Masters competition at Corrigan Park on Saturday as stars of the past rolled back the years. The Tyrone team was led by Antrim joint senior football coach Stephen O’Neill who showed he hasn’t lost his scoring touch in front of goal.
Amonst those featuring in the Antrim side were former county players Kevin Brady and Gearoid Adams and in a competitive but very enjoyable game it was Tyrone who took the points
Antrim: Donard Shannon, Adi Scullion, Barry McMahon, Brendy Garland, Brian Martin, Charlie McLarnnon.,Collie Connolly, Conal Devine, Damien Casey, Darren Craig, Declan Hasson, Dominic Sayers, Dultach Johnston, Gearoid Adams, Kevin Brady. Subs: Kevin McAllister, Michael Donnelly, Niall Conway, Niall Banks, Eoin Doherty, Phelim McCloskeySeamus McKervey,Sean Coulter, Terry Parke, Tommy Kelly, Tony Convery
Tyrone: M Mc Creesh, D Hackett, E Gormley, P Connolly, M Connolly L Patterson, P Clarke, D McAnallen J McMullan, EMcElroy, M Anderson, E Bradley.
Thresea Mellon believes it is an honour to be representing Antrim in Croke Park tomorrow and is excited at the opportunity.
The 17-year-old was drafted into senior squad this season and has been to Jones Road twice as a spectator- though is relishing stepping onto the hallowed pitch with her Saffron team-mates tomorrow morning.
“It’s definitely an honour to be going to Croke Park to represent your county,” said Mellon.
“I’m definitely more excited than nervous- but I think being a little bit nervous is definitely a good thing. It’s shows you care enough to win. I’m so excited- I’ve never played at Croke Park and to be in the senior team is amazing. I can’t wait for Sunday to come around”.
“I’ve been to two games before as a spectator and it’s an amazing stadium. I think every person who is a member of the GAA dreams of going to Croke Park one day as part of a panel and to experience that at 17 is really a dream come true”.
“I can’t wait, my family are more excited probably than me- my mum and brother have followed the whole journey and they can’t believe it’s really happened to me this early in my career I guess”.
Mellon was keen to praise the spirit within the set-up and gave an insight into how they are constantly pushed on in training by their fellow team-mates and managers.
“Everyone is looking forward to it immensely,” she insists.
“I think this is everyone’s dream in the team, we all wanted to get there – which is why I think it happened. We all want it; we all know we can do it – people on the outside mightn’t think we can do it. We’re not known for going to All-Irelands for football. We have definitely done really well, and we just believed in ourselves the whole- which is why its happened and our managers are amazing”.
“They’ve both came in this year; this is my first year with them and they just push you on every training session and the competitiveness at every training session is amazing. Everyone is pushing for places, and you never know – one week you could be in the team and the next you could be out because everyone is pushing each other on at training”.
Mellon was amongst a trio of St Brigid’s minors called into the squad when trails were able to take place in April and was delighted that they were able to play their Minor Championship after fears it would fall by the wayside this year.
“There was three of us called up from my club St Brigid’s,” Mellon recalls.
“There were two other girls that trailed and got on the team and two more have been asked up from the minor team. We went to the senior trails because we thought the minor team wouldn’t happen and we thought- we’ll give it a go I guess and if it doesn’t happen this year, we can always go again next year”.
“Luckily enough we made the team and not long after we made the team, we were told there was going to be Minor trials- so it was definitely a good thing that we were able to play for our own age group as well as play up with the seniors”.
“Duana [Coleman] who is also a player here, we captained together, and it was a great honour and we got to the Platinum Ulster Minor final- it was amazing because it’s never happened before for Antrim. We were unlucky on the day but still to get there was amazing”.
Mellon bagged 1-02 after coming off the bench to replace Orla Corr in their Ulster Final win over Derry in June and didn’t think that things could get any better in her first year of senior intercounty football.
“The Ulster Final was an amazing day” she reflected.
“Orla Corr went down injured quite early-on and I was then asked to come on and I kind of panicked. She’s a back and I’m a forward and I thought I was going into defence. But they rejigged the team, and I went into the forwards, and it was amazing”.
“The girls were amazing in the first half and got a good lead and then just came out in the second half and we needed to get the first score on the board and keep it ticking over. We were able to do it and it was an amazing day and I thought how could it get much better than this? – but luckily enough we’re going to Croke Park this weekend”.
Reflecting upon the All-Ireland campaign to date, Mellon explained that they adopted a mindset that every game was a must win after their opening defeat and was delighted it paid dividends.
“We knew coming into the Carlow game we couldn’t lose and had to win if we wanted to get to the semi-final” explained Mellon.
“Luckily we brought it to extra-time and then our fitness took over from there and it was high scoring game. Against Limerick we had the same mindset, it was a must win game and luckily enough we pulled it out of the bag”.
“Against Wicklow, we knew they were favourites, so we knew it was going to be a tough game- but we were unlucky on the day, and we still booked ourselves a semi-final spot- which was good enough. Carlow in the semi-final was a heart stopping game. You always believe you are going to do it, but you never knew what was going to happen in that game”.
“It was so back and forth, one minute we were ahead and the next second they went down and scored a goal and then they were leading. I was happy we pulled it out of the bag and now we’re going to Croke Park on Sunday with a chance of winning the All-Ireland”.
With tickets for next Saturday’s All Ireland final between Tyrone and Mayo like hen’s teeth, St. Mary’s GAC Ahoghill offers one lucky punter the opportunity to win a pair of tickets for the game.
Tickets for the draw are £10-00 and can be purchased via Clubfunder and the draw will be live on facebook on the 9th September at 9 pm. So why not get on line and buy a ticket which will aid the Cloney club’s fund raising efforts and could very well win you a place at next Saturday’s eagerly awaited final