Loughgiel begin quest for ninth Anrim senior title on the trot

Lucia McNaughton (right) will be a key player for Loughgiel as they seek to secure a ninth Antrim senior camogie title in-a-row Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.
Séamas McAleenan

Antrim Senior Camogie Championship

THE round-robin section of the Derry senior camogie championship got off the ground last weekend and this week signals the start of both the Antrim and Down senior title races.

There are just four teams in the Antrim senior championship and that means that there will be two games each of the next three weekends with the top two teams from the round robin series going into the final on the second weekend of October.

Loughgiel are going for nine in-a-row this season and they face Ballycastle in their opening fixture.

The MacQuillan's have never won the senior title and have lost four of the last eight finals to their neighbours.

Caoimhe Wright, who made such an impact with the county senior team this year, has gone to the Middle East to take up a teaching post and her unavailability is a set back to the seasiders. Maeve Kelly played part of a recent league game, but is far from match fit and her immediate camogie future remains uncertain.

However, on the plus side, players such as her younger sister Fionnuala, Emma Laverty, Nuala Devlin, Enya McShane and Tara O'Neill excelled with the county junior team and they will put in a decent effort alongside the likes of Niamh Donnelly and Catherine McShane from the senior county panel.

Loughgiel will be missing four stalwarts from the teams that have been on that record breaking run in the county; Emma McFadden, Emma McMullan, Maeve Connolly and Rachel Murphy are all absent from the side that ran Slaughtneil close in last winter's Ulster club final.

However, there is a wealth of talent in the Shamrocks' ranks; they have collected each of the last five intermediate titles in the county as well and they should start with a win in this game. Indeed it will be a huge shock if they don't make the final.

The other game this week sees Dunloy take on Cushendall. The Cúchulainn's defeated Loughgiel in the round-robin stages last year, but came up short in the final.

They have been bringing through strong teams at underage level over the past four years with the three Magill sisters, Cassie McArthur, Katie Laverty, Eilis Kearns and Caitlin Crawford all making breakthroughs at county level in the past year. An injury to McArthur places a question mark over her participation, but Dunloy are expected to make it through to a repeat of last year's final.

Cushendall had half-a-dozen players on the Antrim junior side that won the All-Ireland junior title including Dervla Cosgrove the scorer of the fastest ever hat-trick in Croke Park.

The experience gained in that run, plus victory for their minors over Dunloy in Saturday evening's championship final, will do their club side no harm at all and they will be competitive in the senior club title-race. However, it is unlikely that they will bridge the gap to their last final appearance in 2018.

Travel Coach Ireland Antrim Senior Camogie Championship

Friday (6.45pm, Loughgiel): Cushendall v Dunloy

Saturday (6pm, Carey): Ballycastle v Loughgiel