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Final warning from Kelly got McLaughlin firing in All-Ireland final win

Grainne McLaughlin of Antrim kicks a point during the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Junior Football Championship final replay between Antrim and Fermanagh at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh Picture: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Louise Gunn

TG4 All-Ireland Junior Championship

GRAINNE McLaughlin had been given a five-minute warning by Antrim manager Emma Kelly at half-time that if she didn’t put in a harder shift she was coming off.

It certainly had the desired effect as the Glenavy girl hit six second half points bringing her tally to the day for eight, five of those from play, as Antrim defeated Fermanagh 3-15 to 0-11, in Saturday’s TG4 All-Ireland Junior Championship Final replay in the Athletic Grounds, Armagh.

McLaughlin, who at 24, only made her senior debut two years ago, opened Antrim’s scoring from a free, but she was guilty of a few missed chances, and it was those that had given her two black marks in Kelly’s book.

“Grainne was on two ticks going in at half-time and I told her I was going to give her two minutes and I was taking her off but she begged me not to, and I said “five minutes but you got to be working”, and that woke her up,” explained Kelly.

“It was the same as last year, she was hit or miss a few times and we threw her in the so-called ‘B’ team at training and it was the best thing for her.

“I am so happy for her because she tries so hard and at times, she just tries too hard that it never works for her, so I am so happy that she actually in the second half showed what she could do.”

Her four points from play in the second half were out of the top drawer, each one as good if not better than the last and she was more than glad to be able to play her part in Antrim’s first All-Ireland success in 10 years.

“There were a few shots I probably shouldn’t have taken but I’m happy enough with the eight points. I’m just so glad that everyone gelled together, and we all just performed so well and even on a day like that with the heat, nobody stopped, we covered every blade of grass on that pitch and it’s unbelievable,” said McLaughlin.

It was the all-round performance that Antrim had been craving. Two early goals from Lara Dahunsi and captain Cathy Carey set them on their way to a 2-5 to 0-6 half-time lead while four unanswered points, including two from McLaughlin, at the start of the second half, put them in complete control with Carey’s 53rd minute goal ensuring the victory.

McLaughlin, just like her manager, captain and team-mates are now looking forward to playing in the intermediate championship for next season and are not prepared to settle for just being there but instead they want to be able to mix it with the rest that includes fellow Ulster counties Tyrone and Monaghan, the Farney having been relegated from senior this season.

“Hopefully this is first of a few [All-Irelands]. I am over the moon. We knew we didn’t perform two weeks ago in Croke Park so I’m just so glad we came and got over the line. I think we surpassed on our own expectations with the performance today so I’m buzzing,” continued McLaughlin.

We kept a clean sheet, the defence were amazing not to let them in for any goal chances and kick outs as well, Anna was superb today so all around a great performance for the team.

“There is so much talent in Antrim and I know if we put our heads down, we can definitely compete in intermediate. It’s probably going to be a hard task, but I think we are all up for it, but we’ll enjoy this first.”