A nail-biting Ulster Senior Hurling Final saw Antrim hold on for a deserved victory over a tenacious and battling Derry side at the Morgan Athletic Grounds on Saturday.
Though five points separated the teams at the final whistle there really was little between the sides who, by their spirit and skill, showed that camogie is truly alive and well in Ulster.
In the end it was that bit more guile and experience that helped Antrim over the line. Derry made a good start with points from the lively Karen Kielt and Edelle Henry after five minutes. They could have had a goal when Gemma McCullagh made a great run but saw full forward, Ellis ni Chaiside drop the pass under good defensive pressure.
Katie McAleese steadied Antrim nerves with a much needed first point on 11 minutes but they hadn’t much time to relax as Derry, pilling on the pressure, struck for a goal. This time Kielt split the defence and passed to Chaiside who made no mistake.
But Derry’s momentum was immediately squashed when Antrim grabbed a softish goal when a 40 yard free from captain Jane Adams went over the Derry’s keeper’s outstretched hand and into the back of the net
This left the minimum between the sides at the end of the first quarter with Derry rocked by the three pointer after opening so brightly. Boosted by the goal, Antrim soon grabbed the lead and proceeded to dominate the next 10 minutes with points from Adams, Shannon Graham and Kerri O’Neill to take a 1-4 to 1-2 lead. Things got worse for Derry when lack of composure in the rearguard allowed Katie McAleese to latch on to a rebound and fire home.
From a Derry perspective, the gap now was a worrying five points but they had a chance to redress the issue when awarded a penalty after Gemma McCullagh was dragged down. Unfortunately, Kielt could only manage a point and Antrim finished strongly to leave the half time score 2-5 to 1-3.
On the resumption Derry reduced the deficit to three points with scores from lively sub Grainne McNicholl and a Karen Kielt free. Antrim’s captain Jane Adams replied with a free but then Derry’s hopes were charged when a speculative high ball from midfielder Breige Dougan saw the sliotar land in the back of the net. With a quarter of an hour left to play Derry trailed by just a point.
The 51st minute brought another hammer blow for Derry. As the defence dithered, Antrim sub, Eleanor Mallon kicked home for a crucial goal. Derry did bring it back to a three point game with a McGoldrick pointed 45’ but despite bombarding the goalmouth in the closing minutes, Antrim held their nerve with great resolve.
Derry: Claire O’Kane; Kathleen Kielt, Katrina O’Kane, Shauna Murphy; Shauneen Donaghy, Meabh McGoldrick 0-1 (45’), Jane Carey; Breige Dougan 1-0 (Capt), Attracts McPeake 0-1; Edelle Henry 0-1, Aileen McCusker, Maria Mooney; Shauna Quinn, Eilis ni Chaiside 1-0, Karen Kielt 0-3 (2f, pen). Subs: Grainne McNichol 0-1 for Henry, Grainne McGoldrick for Donaghy, Paula Bell for McCullagh.