Nerves don’t go away for experienced Carey

TG4 All-Ireland Junior final preview

By Kevin Herron 

For Cathy Carey Sunday’s All-Ireland final is her fourth outing on the big stage at Croke Park. The St Ergnat’s native was part of the 2009 and 2012 winning sides and experienced the downside in losing a final back in 2016. 

Despite going through it all on three occasions she admits that the nerves don’t go away in the build-up but feels that the experience does help. 

“I don’t think your ever past the nerves because you need a wee bit of nerves to get you up for the day” she explains. 

“I suppose in the lead-up you don’t get as into it as such, and you don’t let it take over what the focus is as the game and you kind of learn that a wee bit as you get older, I suppose. It’s great to have a buzz- training is going really well, everyone is getting on really well and we’ve a full bill of health”. 

“It’s great but I’m sure if you ask me the same question on Sunday morning- will I be nervous? It will be a different answer, but hopefully it will be all under control- a wee bit of experience helps!”. 

Final opponents Wicklow are no strangers to the Saffrons- meeting in last year’s semi-final and again in a five-team group stage this season. 

Carey acknowledges that familiarity can be a positive and a negative but is a big believer that anything can happen on any given day. 

“With five teams in Junior you do get very familiar with each other” believes Carey. 

“Sometimes that familiarity can be a good thing or a bad thing because you kind of know what’s coming – but anybody can pull anything out of the bag on the day. They [Wicklow] are sharp, they’re going in as favourites so all we have to do it stick to the game plan and hope that, that works. We’ve to bring our work-rate and drive on the day and hopefully we won’t be far away”. 

Having won the TG4 Ulster title with a win over Derry back in June- defeat to the same opponents two-weeks later threatened their hopes of a top-four finish- though Carey was adamant that they learnt from that defeat when there was the potential for it to derail their aspirations.  

“Derry set-up very differently on the second day and they probably learnt a lot from the first two games” reflected Carey. 

“We could have went into the next game and lost that and fell apart for the rest of the Championship and lost a bit of confidence. But it probably wasn’t a bad thing- it picked us up and we thought- right we’ve an All-Ireland to contend for here”. 

“They say you learn more from getting beat sometimes than you do a win. That was probably our steppingstone to a decent run in the group stages, sometimes you have to take a hit to move forward and that was probably it for us”. 

31-year-old Carey is amongst the senior players in the squad and has enjoyed the buzz this season and especially the run up to Sunday’s decider.

“It’s a good team with plenty of youth” acknowledges Carey. 

“It’s great whenever there is support around the county and a lot of clubs are getting involved in supporting and everything is great for the ladies to be recognised that much. The work the LGFA do to try and fill Croke Park- as much as they can this year given Covid- can only be a good thing that there are so many people going and so many people interested in it. It’s good to come to training and we’re enjoying it, if you’re still training at this time of year then it’s always a good sign. On fine evenings like this it’s a great buzz”.

Cathy Carey lays the ball off to a team mate during Antrim’s league game with Leitrim at the Dub in 2019

Carey missed the beginning of the 2020 National League campaign- however returned to action after the first lockdown and was part of the Antrim panel who reached the semi-final last season. 

Carey opened up on the struggles that came with a routine change during the COVID-19 lockdowns and is glad they have managed to kick on since returning in May.  

“You just have to be very aware of what you are doing outside of the training and matches” said Carey. 

“I know the argument is that we’re amateurs and stuff like that, but we still have to take it very seriously and you would never want to miss a game- if you’d miss Sunday because of isolating- it would be a nightmare”.

“The girls looked after themselves and everyone that was doing work over lockdown- it is probably standing by them at this stage. There have been a few unfortunate injuries throughout all the clubs and men’s teams and everything- but it’s a good thing that we’ve a good panel”. 

“Everybody has been pushing each other on and you know that there is someone coming up behind to take your place if you aren’t performing in matches or at training. Players have rehabbed and been smart about knocks and niggles – so it’s just been about using our heads as well”. 

“I didn’t play in the National League last year and came back for Championship. Once everything was locked down, it was like – right what do we do now apart from sit in the house five nights a week? You do complain whenever you’re out every day or all-day Sunday but when it’s not there – it’s like what do we do now? 

“It was probably a break that some people wanted at certain stages or needed but we’ve been able to kick on from there. I suppose every cloud has a silver lining and all that and we can’t wait for Sunday to come”. 

5 star Antrim stay on course

TG4 All Ireland Junior Championship Round 3

Tang GAA, Coolvin, Co. Westmeath

Antrim 5-10 Limerick 2-7

Antrim ladies hit five goals for the second time in recent weeks when they proved too strong for Limerick in Coolvin Co. Westmeath on Saturday. The wheel’s appeared to have come off the Antrim wagon when they lost to Derry recently in Belfast but that defeat seems to have acted as a wakeup call to the Saffron ladies.

It was Limerick who made the early running in Coolvin however as Roisin Ambrose and Amy Ryan pointed them two in front inside two minutes before Grainne McLaughlin opened Antrim account with a point in the 6th minute.

This score seemed to settle the Saffrons and Theresa Mellon fired them ahead with a goal in the 9th minute and they never looked back as Cathy Carey increased their lead from a 20 meter free.

Limerick were under pressure but Lauren Ryan relieved that pressure momentarily with a point in the 18th minute but they were soon on the back foot again as the Saffron ladies responded.

Cathy Carey pointed her second free and goals from Caitlin Taggart in the 27th minute and another from Grainne McLaughlin left Antrim in a strong position at the break when they led 3-3 to 0-4.

If Limerick were to get themselves back into this game then it was imperative that they get off to a good start to the second half and when Leah Coughlin pointed in the opening minute and Andrea O’Sullivan fired to the Antrim net, a minute later their come-back looked to be on course with the Antrim lead now reduced to four points.

Theresa Melon and Cathy Carey appeared to have steadied the ship with Antrim points but Limerick hit back with a goal from the impressive Roisin Ambrose and the lead was down to three and we looked to have a game on our hands.

Antrim were able to find the appropriate response however as Cathy Carey pointed another close range free, Michelle Magee followed with another from play and a Caitlin Taggart goal in the 40th minute put the Ulster side right back in control.

Michelle Magee added a point with Lauren Ryan and Andre O’Sullivan responding with points for the Treaty ladies with ten minutes remaining but it was to be their final role of the dice as Antrim finished strongly.

Theresa Mellon replied with two points and Aoife Taggart put the icing on a polished Antrim performance with a goal in injury time to see them romp home winners by 12 points.

Antrim get back on track with five-goal salvo in extra-time

TG4 All-Ireland Junior Championship 

Antrim 5-20- 2-13 Carlow 

Kevin Herron reports 

Having suffered defeat to Derry in their opening encounter Antrim had little margin for error when they met Carlow in Dunleer on Sunday afternoon and they eventually turned things around to boost their chances of claiming an All-Ireland semi-final spot with a 5-20-2-13 extra-time win. 

Despite trailing to a Cliodhna Ni She’s goal at the start of the second-half the Saffron ladies showed resilience to force an additional twenty minutes through points from substitute Caitlin Taggart and Theresa Mallon. 

Then in the first period of extra-time they blazed a trail of goals through Grainne McLaughlin, sisters Aoife and Caitlin Taggart and Theresa Mallon. 

Cathy Carey then added a fifth to secure a massive victory which puts Antrim right back in the reckoning for a semi-final spot. 

There were three changes to the Antrim squad from the Derry reversal eight days earlier. Maria Hanna, Thresea Mellon and Ellen Morgan were all brought into the starting fifteen at the expense of Niamh Enright, Meabh McCurdy and Caitlin Taggart. 

Carlow were first off, the mark in the Louth sunshine as Cliodhna Ni She combined with Dannah O’Brien who swung over the opening point. 

Cathy Carey was on-hand to reply from a free and Antrim forged ahead through an Ellen Morgan point after an off the shoulder pass. 

A goal opportunity went abegging for the Saffrons when Aine Tubridy found the run of Grainne McLaughlin whose shot dropped wide of the post. 

But points followed from Cathy Carey and Ellen Morgan as Antrim held a 0-04-0-01 lead in the early stages. 

Carlow hit back through a second converted free from Dannah O’Brien before Niamh Forde found her captain – Aoibhinn Gilmartin who conjured up a nice score. 

Points were traded between Grainne McLaughlin and Gilmartin a few minutes before Cliodhna Ni She converted a free to draw the sides level at 0-05 apiece. 

Antrim restored their slender advantage through a fantastic Aoife Taggart point after a neat interchange with Theresa Mellon. 

Carlow had the chance to edge in front for the second time on 24 minutes when Ni She went to ground and referee David Hurson outstretched his arms and signalled for a penalty. 

Dannah O’Brien stepped up and saw her effort clip the post, but she converted a free in the immediate aftermath to restore parity. 

O’Brien kicked a fantastic point to bring her personal tally to 0-04 and nudge her side back in front. 

However, the topsy-turvy encounter was evenly balanced once more after Cathy Carey played a long ball to Grainne McLaughlin who steered the ball to Ellen Morgan for her third score of the half. 

Almost instantly the Saffrons had the chance to hit the front again through a converted free and Cathy Carey obliged for the third time. 

That lead was extended before the break as Emma Ferran picked out Theresa Mellon who offloaded to Grainne McLaughlin for a point which moved her side into a 0-09-0-07 lead at the midway point in proceedings. 

Antrim almost had a perfect to the second half when Aoife Taggart was slipped through by Ellen Morgan and Nicola Hanley made a fine stop to deny Taggart. 

It was a chance they would rue as Carlow made no mistake with a similar opportunity at the other end. 

Cliodhna Ni She linked-up fantastically with substitute Sara Doyle before thundering a low shot past Anna McCann to give her side a 1-07-0-09 lead. 

Ni She then popped over her second point in the aftermath and played in role in an opportunity that almost led to a second goal on 41 minutes. 

It was a roles reversal of the first as Ni She threaded the ball through for Sara Doyle whose shot crashed off the underside of the bar and out to safety. 

Anna McCann gifted Carlow another glorious goal chance with a stray pass to Ni She- who took off towards the net and was stopped in her tracks in the nick of time by Orla Corr. 

Aoife Taggart hit her sides opening point of the second period on 52 minutes in a move that involved sister Caitlin- who was sprung from the bench. 

A fourth goal opportunity presented itself for Carlow with Niamh Forde closing in on goal, though the midfielder dragged her low effort off target. 

Antrim pulled level on 56 when Grainne McLaughlin swung over a fine point from Emma Ferran’s through ball. 

Sara Doyle instantly responded and restored Carlow’s lead after showing a fine burst of pace and conjuring the score. 

Substitute Caitlin Taggart took a hoisted pass from Grainne McLaughlin and drew the sides level as time ticked towards the conclusion. 

It looked as though Carlow had got the job done when back-to-back frees from Cliodhna Ni She and Dannah O’Brien moved their side 1-11-0-12 up four minutes into time added on. 

But the Saffrons displayed a never-say-die attitude and just as it looked as though the game as gone and back-to-back defeats were on the cards- they levelled. 

The combination of Ferran and Taggart combined for the second time and Thresea Mellon added a point under extreme pressure to draw the sides level at 1-11-0-14 and ensure that extra-time would be required. 


Carlow started extra-time brighter and led through a third converted free of the contest by Cliodhna Ni She. 

But sixty seconds later the pendulum swung back into Antrim’s favour, Thresea Mellon saw her shot partially parried to safety by Nicola Hanley – and Grainne McLaughlin followed in and palmed to the net from close range to give her side a 1-14-1-12 lead. 

Aoife Taggart swung over her second point of the afternoon and then added a goal from a turnover by Duana Coleman that was slipped into her path and Taggart made no mistake with a low finish to the net. 

Things soon went from bad to worse as Hanley’s quick kick-out was turned over and Cathy Carey fed the ball to Caitlin Taggart who blasted to the net to make it 3-15-1-12 and suddenly the game appeared to be over as a contest. 

Aoife Taggart added her second point of the extra-time period before Antrim hit the net for the fourth time inside of eight minutes of the first period. A free from Cathy Carey dropped short and Theresa Mellon nipped in and found the net. 

A point followed in reply from Niamh Kelly but Antrim were in complete control of proceedings and 4-16-1-13 ahead with another period of extra-time remaining. 

Carlow were awarded their second penalty of the game two minutes into the second period when Anna McCann brought Niamh Murphy to ground- referee Hurson consulted with his umpires but decided against taking any further action against McCann. 

Keeper Nicola Hanley came forward and confidently tucked her effort past counterpart McCann- though it appeared to be little more than scant consolation with seven minutes remaining and a nine-point swing needed. 

Caitlin Taggart added to her goal and point after nice work from Cathy Carey and the duo combined for the next score. Taggart went short with a free to Carey and popped the ball over after the return from the St Ergnat’s forward. 

Taggart converted a further free before adding her last point from play and with almost the last action of the game a fifth goal arrived. 

Cathy Carey would profit from an unselfish Caitlin Taggart pass and rounded Hanley to finish of the scoring and wrap up a 5-20-2-13 win for her side- a win that gets them back in the race for an All-Ireland semi-final spot. 

Antrim: A McCann, N McIntosh, O Corr, N Webb, A McFarland, M Blaney, A Tubridy, E Ferran, C Brown, M Hanna, C Carey (1-03, 0-02f), G McLaughlin (1-03), A Taggart (1-03), T Mellon (1-02), E Morgan (0-02) Subs:D Coleman for M Hanna (43), C Taggart (1-06, 0-01f) for E Morgan (48), C Stewart for C Brown (60) , M Mitchell for G McLaughlin (70), E Murphy for A Taggart (70), J Curran for T Mellon (78). 

Carlow: N Hanley, O Fitzpatrick, A Dooley, R Bermingham, M Dermody, E Atkinson, N Murphy, C O’Neill, N Forde, N Kelly (0-01), A Gilmartin (0-02), M Kinsella, D O’Brien (0-05, 0-03f), C Ni She (1-04, 0-03f), N Mohan. Subs: K Collins for M Dermody (24), S Doyle (0-01) for N Kelly (32), A Dowling for A Gilmartin (46), C Redmond for M Kinsella (46). 

Referee: David Hurson (Monaghan)

Antrim are Ulster Junior Champions after final win over Derry

TG4 Ulster Junior Football Championship Final 

Antrim 4-17- 0-08 Derry 

Kevin Herron reports from Davitt Park 

Antrim hit 1-08 without reply in a blistering second half display to defeat neighbours Derry in this evenings TG4 Ulster Ulster Junior Ladies Final at Davitt Park.

Goals from Cathy Carey and Meabh McCurdy proved the difference at the break as Antrim led 2-03-0-06 against a Derry side that needed to rely on their free taking to keep in touch.

But the Saffrons stepped up the gears in the second period and further strikes from Caitlin Taggart and Thresea Mallon along with some excellent points in-between saw the hosts make it back-to-back junior successes.

The scene was set for the Ulster neighbours to contest the first junior final in two years- after Covid prevented a decider last year and Davitt Park was a fantastic host venue.

Antrim settled quickest and hit the front inside of sixty seconds. Ciara Brown and Emma Ferran worked the ball into the path of Grainne McLaughlin who picked out Cathy Carey for the opening point.

They increased their advantage through a converted Caitlin Taggart free and Taggart notched up a point from play shortly after- thanks to some nice interchange from Meabh McCurdy.

Derry hit back when Deirbhle McNicholl was fouled and converted the resulting free, moments after Brenna O’Loughlin had missed from a similar position.

The opening goal arrived after eight minutes, Grainne McLaughlIn’s shot seemed to be initially dealt with by Derry keeper Louise Gunn, but the ball spilt, and Cathy Carey stabbed home from close range to give her side a 1-03-0-01 lead.

Deirbhle McNicholl converted a free in response and the Oak Leaf girls had their third courtesy of McNicholl who swung over from play.

The visitors closed the gap to two-points after Brenna O’Loughlin was fouled and she converted the resulting free.

In the aftermath of the first half water break the Saffrons had their second goal.

On 17 minutes Aine Tubridy ran onto a neat interchange with Ciara Brown and picked out Meabh McCurdy whose high shot dropped into the corner of the net past Gunn to make it 2-03-0-04.

Derry ended the half on the front foot with Ella Rose Sainsbury charging forward and directing her shot between the posts and a converted Lead McGonagle free ensured that just three points separated the sides at the interval (2-03-0-06).

Antrim started the second period brightly with three points on the spin from substitute Theresa Mallon, a Meabh McCurdy point from Aine Tubridy’s slipped pass and an Aoife Taggart score from in-front of the posts.

Back-to-back frees were converted by Cathy Carey and Grainne McLaughlin swung over a terrific point a few minutes later.

The hosts were well on top and Meabh McCurdy split the posts for her second point and from the resulting kick out the hungry hosts had their third goal of the evening.

Cathy Carey read Louise Gunn’s kick-out and switched it to Aoife Taggart who quickly found sister Caitlin in space and Caitlin slipped the ball low to the net to make it 3-10-0-06.

Carey popped over her third of the half to make it 1-08 unanswered with Derry replying through their fourth free taker of the afternoon- substitute Emma Doherty.

But Antrim responded with another three scores in succession. Aine Tubridy burst forward and shot over with Caitlin Taggart and Theresa Mallon picking off further points between the water break. 

Derry almost had a lifeline when Ciara McGurk went through on goal- but Anna McCann made herself big and turned away McGurk’s goal-bound effort.

Cathy Carey extended the lead at the another over and Antrim found their fourth goal of the evening, after turning Derry over coming out of defence Theresa Mallon shot low to the net to make it 4-15-0-08.

A fifth may have followed but Louis Gunn was equal to Meave McCurdy’s shot as the full forward was denied her second goal.

Deirbhle McNicholl (free) and Meabh McCurdy traded points and the last score was a well taken Grainne McLaughlin point as Antrim ran out 4-17-0-08 winners to make it sucessive Ulster Junior successes. 

Antrim: A McCann, N McIntosh, O Corr, R Hemsworth, A McFarland, M Blaney, A Tubridy (0-01), E Ferran, C Brown, N Enright, C Carey (1-05, 0-02f), G McLaughlin (0-02), A Taggart (0-01), M McCurdy (1-03) C Taggart (1-03,0-01f). Subs: N Webb for R Hemsworth (16), T Mallon (1-02) for O Corr (21), E Morgan for A Taggart (45), C Stewart for A Tubridy (51), N Coleman for C Taggart (54).

Derry: L Gunn, N Brown, A McGough, G Conway, A Frizzelle, D Kivlehan, C Kirkpatrick, A McAllister, R McAllister, C McGurk, E-Rose Sainsbury (0-01), E Doherty, B O Loughlin (0-01f), D McNicholl (0-04, 0-02f), L McGonagle (0-01f). Subs: E Doherty (0-01f) for L McGonigle (35), K Lynn for E Doherty (45), C Moore for B O’Loughlin (48), B McMullan for C Kirkpatrick (48), A O’Loughlin for A Frizzelle (48).

Referee: Kieran McKeever (Armagh)

Derry Girls out for revenge but Antrim can take the title

It has only been several weeks since the Saffrons last met Derry in the Lidl Division 4 league clash, where they came out convincing winners on a 5-10 to 3-4 scoreline. 
This weekend, however, the pair will be battling it out for neighbourly bragging rights in the Ulster Junior Championship Final. 
Oakleaf management, Benny Marron and Odhran McNeilly, both have experience in the Antrim club scene with Moneyglass and will almost certainly have a few tricks up their sleeves when it comes to tactics and game management. 

However, the Saffron duo of Emma Kelly and Kyla Trainor have represented their counties for decades between them and know exactly what it takes to get over the line in championship. 
With a few injury concerns in the Antrim camp, there are likely to be changes to the starting line up, however a big boost for the team is the return of vice captain, Grainne McLaughlin, who missed the whole league campaign through injury. 
Antrim are certainly going into the game as the bookies favourites, but even an ounce of complacency from the Saffron side would be erroneous as the Derry girls plot revenge. 

For the members of Davitt’s GAC this is a big occassion, hosting and Ulster final for the first time. The club have put an awful lot of work into building this great facility and it will be an ideal venue for this game. The Derry girls are coming looking for revenge, but Antrim will be keen to show that they were deserving winners last time out.
All roads lead to Davitt’s Park on Saturday evening, where we could have a very interesting game on our hands!