Hurling and camogie

Camogie: Ballinascreen facing tough task to dethrone the Emmet's

Defending Derry champions Slaughtneil will be aiming to fend off a stout challenge from Ballinascreen in today’s county final at Magherafelt. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Niamh Archibald

It’s finals day in Derry with the intermediate and senior champions due to be crowned at Magherafelt. Ballinascreen and Slaughtneil will battle it out at 3.30pm in the senior decider after the curtain raiser between  Kilrea and Dungiven in the intermediate final (1.30pm).

As holders, Slaughtneil will be viewed as favourites to retain their title, but having seen off Eoghan Rua on their path to the final, Ballinascreen cannot be overlooked.

Midfielder Shannon Graham will be a vital player for Slaughtneil. Her ability to find a forward pass sets up many attacks for the Emmet’s, but she is more than capable of driving forward and taking her chance.

The defending champions have firepower up front in the form of Eilís Ní Chaiside, Louise Dougan and Mary Kelly, but the Ballinascreen defence lead by Bronagh McGillian, Dania Donnelly and Mairead Bradley has been solid so far this season.

Ballinascreen have their own attacking talent in the form of Aine McAllister and Mary Jo McCullagh, while Caroline Rafferty and Eimear McKenna will also hope to cause problems for defenders Aoife Ní Chaiside, Brona Ní Chaiside, Gráinne Ní Chatháin and Dervlagh McGuigan.

Ní Chaiside said her side would not overlook the challenge of Ballinascreen and they are looking forward to the game.

“We’re looking forward to the final, it’s what every team trains for,” she said.

“Every player sets goals for themselves, every team sets targets at the beginning of the season and as you meet these targets, you know all the hard training is paying off and you won’t let anything get in your way until you achieve what you’ve set out to do.

“Training has been difficult in the build-up to the final and we know Ballinascreen will be out to win, but we’ll be standing in their way.

“I’m sure the atmosphere will be great, with the intermediate game being played beforehand. Great skill will be displayed in both matches no doubt.” 

Ballinascreen manager John O’Dywer knows his side face a tough battle as they aim to overturn the reigning champions, but he says they are looking forward to the challenge.

“We have prepared well for this final and as a group are really looking forward to it, it will be a first senior final for a lot of the girls, which will be a great learning experience for them.

“We know we have a massive challenge ahead of us facing the current champions and we know we are underdogs, but we hope to really put it up to Slaughtneil at the same time.

“We are under no illusions about what will be required to win the game. I have a very talented group that want to achieve and become the best they can be and are working hard to do that.

“It will be a hard game and I have no doubt the winning team will have earned the title of champions.”

Kilrea and Dungiven, meanwhile, will clash in the intermediate final, both sides having enjoyed high scoring victories so far in seeing off Glenullin, Glen, Lavey IIs and Newbridge between them. Today’s game promises to be a thriller for fans.

Former Derry star Karen Kielt (left) will undoubtedly be a key player for Kilrea and her scoring ability will be a test for the Dungiven defence led by centre half-back Eimear Mullan.

Up front, Nicole McLaughlin, Orlaith Ní Mhaoláin and Aoife Kelly have been central to Dungiven’s success so far this season.

Kelly’s ability to create chances means she often drops out the field and is hard to pick up, so Kilrea midfielders Maeve Boyle and Shauneen Donaghy will have to cut out her threat while also springing attacks for their side.

Kilrea ace Kielt believes that today’s game will be a tough battle, but after a few hard years in the senior grade her side are aiming for silverware.

“Everyone in the club is looking forward to it, we have been in senior championship for the last four years and in truth probably struggled, so it’s been nice to get a good run in the intermediate Championship,” she said.

“It will be a tough game against Dungiven, we watched their semi-final and, like us, they have been playing senior championship for the past few years, so it’ll be a tight game and there won’t be much separating us.”

Dungiven captain Eimear Mullan echoed Kielt’s thoughts saying: “Knowing Kilrea, we will have a challenging game on our hands as we have played them on numerous occasions in the past with each meeting being very closely contested.

“But hopefully if we work hard together and play to our full potential we will come out county intermediate champions.

“Our win over the league champions has put more confidence into all the girls. After a slower start than normal to the season, and with very few wins, the girls have now come together and I feel that we are working very well as a team.”

There are two mouthwatering clashes in Randalstown today as the Antrim senior championships get underway. Holders Loughgiel take on Rossa at 12.30pm, with Dunloy facing Portglenone at 2pm.

Tomorrow, Beann Dearg, Kilclief take on Denn, while Brídíní Óga face Naomh Treasa for a chance to claim a spot in the Bridie McMenamin Shield final.

Brídíní Óga booked their semi-final spot with a convincing win over St Bridget’s, Armagh. Ashling Ward, Victoria Edgar and Caoimhe McAleenan were the goalscoring heroes of the quarter-final and the Antrim side will be hoping that they can replicate their sharpshooting against a Naomh Treasa side that defeated Drumsurn 7-07 to 3-10.

Cliodhna Colton will cause problems for young Brídíní Óga’s defence as she hit a personal tally of 3-2 to help the Dungannon side reach the semi-finals.

Beann Dearg, Kilclief earned their semi-final place by coming from behind to see off Inniskeen. The Down champions led at the break but conceded 1-1 early in the second-half. 

Mary Swail grabbed her third goal and Colleen Reilly hit home to make it 5-4 to 4-4

FIXTURES TODAY
Derry Intermediate and Senior Championship finals at Magherafelt: Kilrea v Dungiven (1.30pm); Ballinascreen v Slaughtneil (3.30pm)
Crosskey’s Inn Antrim Senior Championship semi-finals at Portglenone: Loughgiel v Rossa (12.30pm); Dunloy v Portglenone (2pm)

TOMORROW
Ulster Junior Club: Bridie McMenamin Shield 2016 semi-finals: Beann Dearg, Kilclief v Denn; Brídíní Óga vs Naomh Treasa

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