Corn Uan Uladh semi-final:
St Louis Ballymena 4-8 St Patrick’s Maghera 4-7
That well-worn cliché, ‘A game of two halves’ certainly applied in this enthralling Corn Uan Uladh semi-final game in Ahoghill today when St. Louis Ballymena staged a remarkable second half comeback to overturn St. Patrick’s Maghera’s 12 point half time lead and advance to the final against Cross & Passion Ballycastle in Ballymena on Saturday.
The first half belonged to the Derry girls and while they were not as dominating as their half time lead suggested, they never the less appeared to have one foot in Saturday’s final when they led 4-4 to 0-4 as the half time whistle sounded.
St. Louis and their opponents St. Patrick’s lined out in very similar colours at the start of this game in Cloney and St. Louis manager, Chloe Draine decided to turn her sides shirts inside out for the second half and while this was not the reason for her side’s remarkable rally it certainly made players much easier to identify as the second half action got under way
St Louis opened brightly with points from Dunloy pair Kyra Doherty and Katie Molloy (2) inside the first five minutes and looked impressive during these opening exchanges.
By the 10th minute they had conceded three goals however and questions would have to be asked about their defending with St. Patrick’s coming up against only minimum resistance as they penetrated the Ballymena rear guard.
The first came with a long ball out of defence for Carla McEldowney in the right corner and on both occasions a low cross was picked up by Aimee Lennon for the first two goals. Then Bellaghy club-mate Caoimhe Chambers finished the third goal and again the St. Louis marking was poor.
St Louis were forced to bring Katie Molloy back as sweeper to close out the goal threat and it left the Kintullagh girls missing her influence in attack. There was a bit of fortune with Maghera’s fourth goal at the end of the first quarter with goalie Orlagh Convery seeming to lose site of Evanne Martin’s shot in the blinding sun and it ended in the net.
Maghera continued to press during the remainder of the half and looked to be in pole position when they led 4-4 to 0-4 at the change of ends with St. Louis getting a late point from Anna McKillop.
With the change of tops seemed to come a change in attitude from the Ballymena side and Kyra Doherty got the second half off to a flying start with a goal and when Anna McKillop added a second after 36 minutes, St Louis supporters and their side dared to dream.
The momentum was now very much with St. Louis as they battled for every ball, knocking the opposition out of their stride and minutes before the second water break Katie Molloy drove through the centre and fired to the net to leave just two points between the teams at 3-6 to 4-5.
Anna McKillop’s point from a free left just one in it and the Cullybackey Road girls had the scent of victory in their nostrils as the final quarter got under way and the excellent Anna McKillop fired in a fourth Ballymena goal to level the tie.
The action continued to flow in the direction of the Maghera goal and Eimear Johnston might well have had a fifth Ballymena goal minutes later, but her shot skimmed over the cross-bar instead.
St. Patrick’s had been fighting a rear guard action for the greater part of the second half and finding it difficult to find a way through a now much more organised St. Louis defence but they broke forward and Evanne Martin levelled from a free and the game was still in the melting pot.
St. Louis were not to be denied however and McKillop knocked over the winning point from a dead ball four minutes from the end. There were a couple of late chances for Maghera to take it to extra time, but St Louis held on to make it an all-north Antrim derby with Cross & Passion Ballycastle in the final for the third time out of the last four.
CPC had things all their own way in the other semi-final against St Mary’s Magherafelt in Ballymena, scoring eight goals and five points in the first half alone and five of those from Cassie McArthur.
St Louis: Orlagh Convery, Susan Shannon, Orla Kane, Grace Kearns, Erin Coulter, Dearbhail Dobbin, Sarah Fyfe, Eimear Johnstone 0-1, Katie Molloy 1-2, Carlina Sullivan, Cliodhna Griffin, Anna McKillop 2-4, 0-3 frees, Niamh Neeson, Kyra Doherty 1-1 capt, Ciara O’Boyle.
Subs: Anna McKillen for O Kane (HT), Maria Gately for C O’Boyle (HT), Aoibhinn Cosgrove for C Sullivan (38).
St Patrick’s: Annie Ní Lochlainn, Alicia Gillen, Leah Lennon capt, Erin Kelly, Emer Doherty, Orlaith Hull, Abi McNeill, Evanne Martin 1-4, 0-3 frees, Emer Murray, Cara Donnelly, Blanaid McLaughlin 0-1, Doireann Donnelly, Carla McEldowney 0-1, Aimee Lennon 2-1, Caoimhe Chambers 1-0.
Subs: Emma Collins for C Donnelly (HT), Caoimhe Kearney for D Donnelly (40), Mary Murray for E Murray (48).
Referee Owen Elliott (Ballymena)