Derry retain Ulster camogie title after flurry of late goals
A LATE flurry of goals saw Derry retain their Ulster Senior Camogie title at Swatragh yesterday as the Oak Leafs overcame a resilient Down side 5-12 to 0-9.
Karen Kielt opened the scoring for the home side with two well-taken frees before Catherine McGourty got Down off the mark with a free of her own.
Mary Kelly extended Derry’s lead to two again before Dervla O’Kane raised the green flag to put five between the sides.
O’Kane’s goal came after a fantastic passage of play, as Eimear Mullan claimed a ball out of defence before picking out Kelly.
The Slaughtneil player handpassed to Kielt who found Mairead McNicholl, whose shot was well saved by Maria McNally. However, O’Kane was on hand to fire home the rebound.
Down responded once more through McGourty, who showed great skill by pointing on the turn, before she reduced the deficit to three with a free.
Paula Gribben, Sara Louise Carr and Dearbhla Magee started to influence the game for Down as they linked up well with the full-forward line, but the Derry defence stood firm with Grainne O’Kane and Aoife Ni Chaiside clearing any danger, while Megan Kerr snuffed out the threat of Niamh Mallon.
Kielt and Carr exchanged frees as Derry lead by two at half-time, 1-5 to 0-6.
The home side had a glorious opportunity to extend their lead at the start of the second half when Maria Mooney found Kelly on the edge of the square but pressure from Maria McNally ensured she could not gain control of the ball.
It was Down who struck first with McGourty hitting two points, with the Ballycran player starting to dictate play by sitting as a holding midfielder. And Down were back on level terms through Sara Louise Carr.
The Mourne county’s resurgence was dealt a blow when Carr was forced off with a knee injury and Derry dominated proceedings from there on as their experience began to show.
Kelly reacted quickest when Maria Mooney’s shot came off the bar to grab Derry’s second goal.
Mairead McNicholl, Kielt and Eimear Mullan all raised the green flag for Derry.
Niamh Mallon responded for Down with a point but Mooney, Kielt and captain Meabh McGoldrick all fired over to ensure a nine-point victory for the Oak Leafs, much to the delight of manager Joe Baldwin.
“This one is a wee bit special, it’s my third one and to have won it in Derry is nice,” he said.
“A lot of people just see what goes on out on the pitch, what they don’t see is the hard work that goes on behind the scenes in the changing room and on the training pitch and the girls worked hard for this.
“Now we will regroup and focus our attention on the All-Ireland campaign, our aim this year is to try and get out of the group.
“We are going to lose three or four of our starters through traveling but the younger players have got to step up and we will be going hell for leather for the start of the Championship.”