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Slaughtneil determined to savour sixth straight Ulster final triumph

Slaughtneil joy and Loughgiel sorrow on the final whistle of the Ulster Camogie Senior Club Championship Final played at Lavey in Co-Derry on Saturday. Now six in a row Ulster Final wins for Slaughtneil. Picture Margaret McLaughlin 15-1-2022.
SEAMUS McALEENAN

2021 Ulster Senior club camogie final: Slaughtneil 3-7 Loughgiel 0-9

SINÉAD Mellon picked up the Player of the Match award after the replay of the 2020 final just before Christmas. On Saturday in Lavey, two Mellon goals inside 60 seconds around the 40th minute made the difference in another intense Ulster club camogie final between Slaughtneil and Loughgiel.

Slaughtneil have now completed the first ever six-in-row of Ulster club titles and certainly there was an indication when they lifted the cup at the weekend that they were heading for celebrations they were denied five weeks ago.

That was because they were back in action the following weekend where they surprisingly lost to Oulart-The Ballagh in the All-Ireland semi-final. With a gap of five weeks before they meet Galway side Sarsfield’s, the Derry champions felt they needed a brief break to toast their incredible achievement.

Antrim champions Loughgiel have now lost out in each of those six Ulster finals and each one has been an arm-wrestle that went Slaughtneil’s way.

The champions work so hard all over the pitch and sometimes they got lucky breaks. Certainly there was an element of good fortune in the first and third goals on Saturday.

Loughgiel opened promisingly despite Louise Dougan giving Slaughtneil the lead in the first minute from a monster free from the halfway line. Róisín McCormick pointed twice at the other end but Slaughtneil had moved 0-3 to 0-2 ahead after 12 minutes when they got their first break.

Olivia Rafferty burst forward. Her looped shot for a point seemed to be drifting wide, but instead crept in at the angle between upright and crossbar for a goal. McCormick pulled a point back from a free before the water-break and added another 10 minutes later after Racquel McCarry had brought Loughgiel closer with a flash point from a narrow angle.

However, the Antrim champions missed a couple of other openings from frees and from open play before Slaughtneil closed the half with a Tina Bradley point from a 45. 1-4 to 0-5 at the interval, but still anyone’s game.

There was stalemate for the first nine minutes of the second half before Sinéad Mellon struck. The first of her two goals came from the Slaughtneil defence holding out under pressure. Cliodhna Ní Mhianáin picked up possession and delivered up the right wing where Olivia Rafferty had a lot of work to do to beat Maria Lynn.

She managed to cut inside, however, and drew full-back Katie Lynn as she headed in on goal. That left Mellon free running off the shoulder and she shot low to the net – a classic counter-attacking goal.

A few minutes later a shot for a point from her cousin Therese Mellon fell short, bouncing off the goalie’s stick. Sinéad was on hand to force it over the line and that basically was game over as Slaughtneil’s game-management is second to none.

Loughgiel hit the next three points in reply, but the Derry champions finished the tie with points each from Ní Mhianáin and Bradley to complete the six in-a-row.

Ní Mhianáin is fast turning into one of the team’s star turns, but it was their first winning captain back in 2015, Aoife Ní Chaiside, who was a shoo-in for Player of the Match. The team’s success is still built upon shear hard work all over the pitch and getting the one-on-one marking jobs right in defence.

It was further disappointment and frustration for Loughgiel who will bemoan the fact that they simply cannot get the breaks. Again they promised much during parts of the game with Amy Boyle, Lucia McNaughton and Emma McFadden prominent. But the goals took victory out of their reach.

Slaughtneil: J Bradley; O McNeill, L Dougan (0-2 frees), E McGrath, B McAllister, Céat McEldowney, C McGrath; S Graham, C Ní Mhianáin (0-2), C Mulholland; T Bradley (0-2 frees), A Ní Chaiside, O Rafferty (1-0), S Mellon (2-0), T Mellon )0-1).

Subs: C Glass for E McGrath, F Burke for T Mellon, Carla McEldowney for C Mulholland, E McGuigan for O Rafferty, C Kearney for S Mellon

Loughgiel: M Coyle, C Campbell, K Lynn, M Lynn, E McFadden, L McNaughton (0-2), S Devlin, M Connolly capt., C Dobbin, E McMullan, R Murphy (0-1), A Lynn, Christine Laverty, R McCormick (0-6, 0-5 frees).

Subs: A Connolly for E McFadden, Ciara Laverty for E McMullan

Referee: Philip McDonald (Cavan)

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