ULSTER'S FINEST: Irish News Ulster All-Stars Camogie Team of the Year

Down's Aoife Keown has been named at midfield in the Irish News Ulster All-Stars team
Down's Aoife Keown has been named at midfield in the Irish News Ulster All-Stars team



Graham was not involved in last year’s Antrim team that reached the All-Ireland Intermediate final, but came back into the panel at the start of the league. She started the first league game against Down, made a brilliant early save and held on to the number one shirt for the season. A good shot-stopper, strong under the high ball and confident coming off her line.



Drain was the regular full-back until she sustained a broken jaw in the second league game against Derry. She didn’t return until the opening game of the intermediate championship and found herself in the corner. Drain attacked every ball that came down that wing for the rest of the competition. Playing in front of her player, she was rarely turned by a speedy corner forward and is a rallying point for her team.


Donnelly has been a regular in Antrim’s half-back line for several years and she earned a Soaring Star award there last year. Her switch to full-back only came about because of the absence of Chloe Drain. Strong under the dropping ball with a burst of pace from a standing position, the Ballycastle player excelled in her new role and launched many of the Antrim attacks from deep. She was also the defensive free-taker, her long deliveries relieving pressure.


The slow-burner on the Antrim team. Lynn has been a very understated player throughout her career with club and county. But, as Antrim built up a head of steam for Croke Park, the Corkey Primary school teacher became more prominent in every game and topped the year off with a superb job in Croke Park, tight-marking allied with safe clearances.



Magee could have laid claim to any number of positions in defence or in midfield where she found herself in the senior championship. She even popped up for some key scores as well. Down have used her mostly as a defender however and she won a Soaring Star award in defence last year, but she can play anywhere and should have gained an All-Star nomination for her performances over the summer.


Again because of the reshuffle in the Antrim defence midway through the league caused by injuries and Covid absences, Conlon was moved to centre-half back and the physiotherapist excelled in the position providing superb cover for her full-back line and picking up a lot of possession at the back of midfield. Also found time to do physio with the Antrim minors who also won their All-Ireland a week later.


McMullan was one of a number of experienced players in the Down team that all did the simple things well and her impact wasn’t noticed until she was missing in the Offaly championship game. Down shipped five goals in the game. She returned for another strong performance against Westmeath and Down retained their senior status.

Down's Niamh Mallon with Caoimhe Conlon of Antrim have both made the team           Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Down's Niamh Mallon with Caoimhe Conlon of Antrim have both made the team           Picture: Margaret McLaughlin



McNaughton took over the Antrim captaincy this year and led by example. Always combative and aggressive in the tackle, her deliveries were invariably sent off at the right pace and into the space where Antrim’s speedy forwards could really hurt opponents.

She had the pleasure of climbing the Hogan Stand steps to lift the Intermediate Cup on her birthday. It will be difficult to top that for future birthdays.


Keown carried on where she left off last year in a strong midfield partnership with Paula O’Hagan. She continues to win a lot of dirty ball, breaks the tackle and looks for Niamh Mallon. The defensive side of her game came more to the fore in the senior championship where Down looked to work hard on crowding out speedy forwards. Another good season from Keown who also featured strongly for the Down footballers.



She was the stand out Antrim player in last year’s shock run to the final. This year she was still the player to watch in the Saffrons’ attack and, despite teams paying her a lot more attention, she still shone in almost every

game. Suffered a broken finger in July and that threatened to end her season. But she strapped it up and got on with it, turning in a Player of the Match performance in Croke Park, scoring 1-5 from play.


When Antrim came back to draw level in the National League final in June, Down needed something special and they got it from Graffin whose catch, driving run and off-load created the goal for Anna Rogan. She did the same in injury time in the Ulster final, this time she took the winning point after a superb catch from a poc out. She missed some of the senior championship games through injury, but returned to orchestrate the win over Westmeath.


McCormick had formed an awesome attacking force with Maeve Kelly through school and under-age county. She didn’t quite catch fire in 2020, but certainly delivered the goods in the season just past. She took over the role of free-taker and impressed, but it was her scores from play, her goal against Galway in the semi-final, her five points in Croke Park, her overall pace and accuracy under pressure that delivered for her team in 2021.



Dobbin started the season by scoring the late winning goal against Down in the first league game. While the Antrim performance in general that day showed improvement from last year’s All-Ireland final defeat, that goal acted like a confidence transfusion for the team. Dobbin remained a regular scorer through the season, her quick feet taking her clear of defenders and she was another Antrim player that rose to the occasion in Croke Park with a return of 1-2.


There was never a doubt in anyone’s mind that Mallon could operate at the very top level of camogie. If the Down team could get her enough possession, she could destroy any defender or defenders as most teams tried to double-mark her or play a sweeper in front. She hit 1-44 (just 20 points of which were from frees) in five games against the top teams in the AllIreland senior championship. Down lost four of those games, but Mallon kept them in with a shout until the final whistle. Ulster’s only nominee for an All-Star.


Last year her amazing scoring returns were enough to win her county the All-Ireland Premier Junior title. This year she maintained those phenomenal scoring feats (0-10 from 1-11 in the junior decider against Wexford in Croke Park), but it wasn’t enough in either Division Three league final nor the All-Ireland final. Armagh though won back the Ulster Junior title and Donnelly scored 5-8 in the final.