Hurling & Camogie

Niamh Mallon makes switch from Down to Galway

Her native county still have a chance of survival despite defeat to Dublin, while Antrim are in contention for a final spot after beating Limerick

Niamh Mallon
Niamh Mallon Niamh Mallon will play for Galway and Sarsfields after completing her transfer from Down and Portaferry (©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo/©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo)

Very Ireland Camogie League, round four

Division 1A

Cork 1-15 Clare1-6

Galway 0-13 Waterford 0-10

Kilkenny 1-6 Tipperary 2-12

FORGET about the results on an exciting Saturday in Division 1A, the big news came from Galway at the weekend with the inclusion of last year’s Down captain Niamh Mallon in Cathal Murray’s matchday squad.

There has been a protracted transfer saga through the off-season around Mallon, who is living and working in Galway. That finally came to a close with her switch of club allegiances from Portaferry to triple All-Ireland club champions Sarsfields during the past week.

She didn’t get any game-time on Saturday, but will be a big asset to Galway coming into the championship season – if the manager doesn’t spring her into the must-win battle with Cork next Saturday. Former player of the year Niamh Kilkenny was also back for the Connacht team after sitting out last season.

The game in Loughrea turned out to be a thriller with injury-time points from Carrie Dolan and Aisling O’Reilly foiling a stirring second-half comeback by Waterford.

With Tipperary and Cork also winning on Saturday, it all means that Tipp are on the brink of a first appearance in a senior league decider since Wexford beat them in 2009.

They had a double scores win over Kilkenny at UPMC Nowlan Park. They face a youthful Clare side in the last round on Saturday with a win guaranteeing them a spot in the final.

Then their opponents would have to come from the Cork v Galway game. That head-to-head at a Galway venue could see two former Down forwards, Mallon and Sorcha McCartan, in opposite corners.

Tipperary conceded a seventh-minute goal to Katie Power but the excellent Eimear McGrath fired over three points and Karen Kennedy goaled right on the break to give them a 1-4 to 1-2 lead against Kilkenny.

On the resumption of play, Tipp recorded eight of the next nine scores to put this affair to bed. McGrath’s 46th-minute goal removed all doubt and she would finish with 1-7.

Cork led Clare by 0-6 to 0-1 after playing with the elements in Páirc Uí Rinn. Saoirse McCarthy scored four of those points.

A goal from Hannah Looney early in the second half, however, lifted the Leesiders and McCarthy and Sorcha McCartan kept the scoreboard running for a nine-point win despite a 41st-minute goal from Áine O’Loughlin.

Division 1B

Antrim 3-10 Limerick 2-5

Down 1-1 Dublin 3-16

Wexford 4-15 Kerry 0-3

THE final scoreline flatters Antrim a little as two of their goals came in the last three minutes of play. Nevertheless, the Saffrons were deserving winners over Limerick in Ballycastle on Saturday.

Quite remarkably, from losing their management team two days before the start of the league to scrambling together teams against Down and Wexford, the latter a humiliating 12-20 to 0-4 hammering, Antrim are 60 minutes away from a league final.

If they win their final group game with Dublin on Saturday, they will meet Wexford once again on April 13.

Antrim looked to have good structure to their team in the first half against Limerick, except that they lacked penetration for scores. At the other end, they were caught open for the two goals.

The first after six minutes came when Caoimhe Costello drew the last defender and hand-passed to the unmarked Niamh Ryan. Nine minutes later Caoimhe Lyons cut in from the right wing. Her first shot was parried, but she picked up possession and found the net.

Limerick nearly had a third goal in a move similar to the first but Caitríona Graham rushed off her line and threw herself in the way of Costello’s shot. Otherwise Limerick didn’t create too many chances.

At the other end Antrim relied on frees to get their scores – two from Róisín McCormick and one from Anna McKillop accounting for three of their four points. Cassie McArthur scored the other and Antrim trailed by 2-2 to 0-4 at the break.

Within six minutes of the re-start the home team had taken the lead. A good move involving Siobhán McKillop and Caitrín Dobbin finished with Annie Lynn finding the net and Maeve Kelly quickly added two points.

Although Costello pointed a free in reply, Antrim took the lead in the 39th minute with a point from Dobbin and never lost it. The same player put two points between the teams after 51 minutes and last quarter substitutes Fionnuala Kelly and Sarah Fyfe finished the job with late goals.

Meanwhile Down fell to their heaviest defeat to date, a goal from Emma Flannigan right on half-time giving Dublin an interval lead of 1-10 to a single point from Beth Fitzpatrick.

The home side defended well during the first 25 minutes of the second half with the Dublin total extended by just four points during that period. However, there were then goals from Laura Sharkey and Niamh Comerford before Down got a late consolation score from Niamh McGrath.

For Down it is all about the final game in Kerry next Saturday. Kerry suffered an even heavier defeat to Wexford on Saturday. Down will hope to beat them to extend their top-flight presence to a fourth season, although their superior scoring difference means that a draw would be enough.