Hurling and camogie

Swatragh could cause upset but Slaughtneil on high alert

Derry's Mairead McNicholl in action with Leanne Nolan and Keeva Collins of Carlow at Swatragh. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin.
Séamas McAleenan

The Elk Complex Derry Senior Championship Camogie semi-final: Saturday September 21 at 4.30pm in Magherafelt: Slaughtneil v Swatragh

THERE should be a huge crowd in Magherafelt this afternoon for the semi-final of the Elk Complex Derry senior camogie semi-final which is a repeat of last year’s decider at the same venue.

Back then Slaughtneil won fairly comfortably although Swatragh did manage a decent tally of 2-9 – but things have changed in the meantime.

At the start of August Swatragh inflicted a 4-8 to 2-13 league defeat on the triple All-Ireland champions, their first competitive defeat since Loughgiel edged them out in the 2015 Ulster final.

While it was a significant breakthrough for Swatragh neither team was at full strength that evening. The Davitt’s then went on to collect the league title.

Each year that Slaughtneil has won the All-Ireland title, their team has shown change for the following season. Last Saturday their re-structured defence was not tested in a 3-19 to 0-1 win over Eoghan Rua Coleraine in the quarter-final.

Gone are Bróna and Éilís Ní Chaiside, Gráinne Ní Chatháin and Faoiltiarna Burke from their Croke Park team although the latter did come in as a sub in Glenullin.

Eilis McGrath and Cliona Mulholland were both subs in Croke Park and are now settled in defence with new full-back Brídín McAllister and also Clare McGath who has returned after spending last season on maternity leave.

Significantly though the champions’ attack remains the same as in Croke Park, although that could well change with injuries during the quarter-final to Siobhan Bradley and also to dynamic midfielder Shannon Graham.

Swatragh had an emphatic 8-22 to 1-2 win over Castldawson in their quarter-final on Sunday. Mairead McNicholl fired over a magnificent 2-8, Carla McKeagney 2-0 and Noleen McKenna five points.

I would expect to see both defences tested a little more today in Magherafelt. While there is definitely an opening for the challengers to cause an upset, that league result seven weeks ago will have put the champions on high alert.

The second semi-final, between Ballinascreen and Lavey has been deferred until Thursday week (October 3) with the ‘Screen involved in the Uslter club football championship tomorrow and, should they win, next weekend.

Meanwhile Kilrea, after toppling champions Bellaghy in last week’s semi-final of the Glenshane Coach Hire Derry Intermediate championship, are favourites to inflict a second successive final defeat on Banagher when they meet tomorrow in Newbridge (1pm)

Down senior championship semi-finals

Saturday Sept 21 at 2pm in Drumaness: Clonduff v Ballygalget

Sunday Sept 22 at 3pm in Ballygalget: Ballycran v Portaferry

It is more than seven weeks since the quarter-finals of the Down title-race when defending champions Clonduff were pushed hard by an emerging Liatroim Fontenoys’ team.

They eventually won by 0-11 to 0-6 with Paula O’Hagan hitting the target eight times and strong performances from the Carr sisters.

No surprise there, but the team as a whole looked a little more disciplined in the tackle. There was less lunging in and conceding fouls which had dogged their All-Ireland run earlier in the year.

As a team there was also an improvement in striking and general positional play. That was in contrast to the county quarter-final last year when they nearly fell to a young and hungry Ballygalget side that stands in their way this (SATURDAY) afternoon in Drumaness.

The Ards’ side, in search of a first title in more than half a century, actually led at the break last season but couldn’t finish the job with Paula O’Hagan rescuing Clonduff.

The Savage sisters, Niamh Dempster and a few younger players who have enjoyed success at schools’ level in Our Lady’s and St Patrick’s Knock have a lot of talent and will certainly challenge the three-in-a-row chasing Shamrocks.

However the experience gained in the All-Ireland run will stand to Clonduff and they should remain in the competition.

Whatever the outcome of the game in Drumaness today, there will definitely be an Ards’ team in the final with Portaferry and Ballycran meeting in Ballygalget tomorrow afternoon.

Both clubs have suffered their fair share of heartbreak in finals; Portaferry, still to win the Cup, lost three of the last five deciders while Ballycran picked up three titles 2008-2012, but they have also finished runners up in 13 finals over the past 25 years.

Veteran Catherine McGourty has played in most of those deciders and is still a scoring threat as she demonstrated in the 4-12 to 0-11 win over Bredagh back in early August. McGourty hit 2-7 of that total with Caoimhe O’Prey and Corey Smith the other goal-scorers.

They still have quite a few with experience from the 2012 winning side, while Portaferry seem to rely on the mercurial talents of Niamh Mallon to get them through.

Mallon, now based in Galway, fired over 1-15 in a 3-20 to 0-7 quarter-final win over An Ríocht, Erin McGrattan weighing in with 2-2.

Saoirse Sands and Maria McNally are other players from the club on the Down panel, but as tighter games have unfolded Mallon finds herself having to forage for possession behind her midfield and that of course limits her scoring ability.

At the moment, Niamh Mallon is the most accomplished forward in Ulster. If Ballycran can limit her impact and get plenty of ball into their own top-scorer, they have a chance of making the final. But it will be close call either way.

Ulster Club Championship

Bridie McMenamin Shield quarter-finals

Sunday Sep 22 at 2pm

Aghaderg v Ahoghill

Culloville v Edendork

THREE of the four teams in action in the Bridie McMenamin Shield quarter-finals only won their county titles last weekend, Culloville the odd one out.

The Armagh champions have had a while longer to prepare for this competition and no doubt will have taken in the Tyrone final on Friday evening when Edendork won their first county title in two decades.

But will that be good enough to see them over the line in a competition that has been won by Naomh Treasa from Dungannon for the past two seasons?

Ahoghill won their first Antrim Junior title in a quarter of a century with a 4-14 to 0-7 win over Creggan, 4-4 of which was scored by former county player Noreen Graham.

Noreen though left for Africa during the week and her absence will certainly temper the team’s cutting edge and ask more of her cousins Caitriona, who scored nine frees in the final, and Áine as well as Maura Downey, the other main scorers for the team this season.

Aghaderg hit the net four times in the opening half of their Down final last Saturday and that was enough to see them through a tougher second half against Clonduff’s reserve team.

This will be a tight enough game, but Antrim sides have tended to do better than their Down counterparts in this competition and Ahoghill might just make it, even without their main scorer.

Galway lead shortlist for 2019 Camogie All-Stars Awards nominations

Newly-crowned All-Ireland champions Galway lead the Camogie All-Stars Awards 2019 shortlist announced this week with 14 players nominationed.

Runners-up Kilkenny receive 13 nominations while there are nine for Tipperary and just four for Cork the teams beaten in the semi-finals.

Waterford, who reached this year's quarter-finals before losing to Galway also have four nom-inations while Limerick’s Niamh Mulcahy completes the list.

Ian Brick (Kerry), Johnny Greville (Westmeath) and Cathal Murray (Galway) are the nomi-nees for Manager of the Year. Each of them was successful in leading their sides to All-Ireland glory this year.

The final team will be announced at the 16th annual Camogie All-Stars Awards banquet, sponsored by Liberty Insurance in Citywest Hotel on Saturday October 19th. This year's win-ning team will also have the added incentive of an All-Stars Tour to New York in November, where they will be joined by the 2018 winners for an exhibition game.

President of the Camogie Association Kathleen Woods congratulated the nominees stat-ing that "2019 was another exceptional year in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Champion-ships and the upcoming All-Stars Awards will celebrate some of the outstanding individual per-formers who contributed greatly to a thoroughly enjoyable summer in what was a great show-case for our game. An All-Stars Award nomination recognises the outstanding achievements of our players and it is truly deserving for these tremendous role models to receive such recogni-tion for their efforts. I wish to thank our sponsors Liberty Insurance for their continued spon-sorship of the Camogie All-Stars Awards and the 2019 All-Stars Tour to New York, which will add even greater excitement to a wonderful night on October 19th."

Speaking on behalf of Liberty Insurance, Stuart Trotter said: "The Camogie All-Stars Awards celebrate the outstanding performances of the players who have helped to light up this year's Championship. The skill, commitment and athleticism demonstrated by these players has elevated them to the very pinnacle of their sport. Their All-Stars nominations is deserved recognition for these same performances.

"Our 'Camogie Made Us' campaign, launched in July, focused on the important role Camogie coaches play in the development of players at grassroots level.

"The nominations we received articulated not only the skills being taught to the players by their coaches, but also the off-the-pitch guidance and mentoring they are providing to players on a more human level. This includes mindfulness programmes and social media awareness work-shops, amongst other initiatives.

"Each of our Camogie All-Star nominees can attest to the pivotal role their coaches have played in helping them to get to where they are today. As our attention now turns towards the All-Stars Tour to New York in November, we wish each of our nominees the very best of luck on October 19th."

Camogie All-Stars Awards 2019 sponsored by Liberty Insurance, nominees list:

Goalkeepers: Caoimhe Bourke (Tipperary), Emma Kavanagh (Kilkenny), Sarah Healy (Gal-way)

Full-Back Line: Julianne Bourke (Tipperary), Sarah Dervan (Galway), Catherine Foley (Kil-kenny), Shauna Healy (Galway), Edwina Keane (Kilkenny), Tara Kenny (Galway), Eimear Loughman (Tipperary), Pamela Mackey (Cork), Grace Walsh (Kilkenny)

Half-Back Line: Lorraine Bray (Waterford), Heather Cooney (Galway), Kellyann Doyle (Kilkenny), Emma Helebert (Galway), Karen Kennedy (Tipperary), Hannah Looney (Cork), Claire Phelan (Kilkenny), Clodagh Quirke (Tipperary), Lorraine Ryan (Galway)

Midfield: Aoife Donohue (Galway), Meighan Farrell (Kilkenny), Niamh Kilkenny (Galway), Áine Lyng (Waterford), Mary Ryan (Tipperary), Davina Tobin (Kilkenny)

Half-Forward Line: Anne Dalton (Kilkenny), Carrie Dolan (Galway), Ereena Fryday (Tip-perary), Denise Gaule (Kilkenny), Eibhlís McDonald (Tipperary), Niamh Mulcahy (Limerick), Amy O'Connor (Cork), Katie Power (Kilkenny), Niamh Rockett (Waterford)

Full-Forward Line: Beth Carton (Waterford), Noreen Coen (Galway), Linda Collins (Cork), Catriona Cormican (Galway), Cáit Devane (Tipperary), Niamh Hanniffy (Galway), Ailish O'Reilly (Galway), Michelle Quilty (Kilkenny), Miriam Walsh (Kilkenny)

Manager of the Year 2019 sponsored by Liberty Insurance, nominees list:

Ian Brick (Kerry), Johnny Greville (Westmeath), Cathal Murray (Galway)

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