Swatragh hope to build on league win and topple Derry champions Slaugthneil

Slaughtneil have won every Derry Senior Camogie Championship since 2015, but Swatragh will feel that their league final win over the Emmet's earlier this year gives them a chance of ending their wait for a senior title which stretches back to 2005                        Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Slaughtneil have won every Derry Senior Camogie Championship since 2015, but Swatragh will feel that their league final win over the Emmet's earlier this year gives them a chance of ending their wait for a senior title which stretches back to 2005 Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

The Elk Derry Senior Camogie Championship final: Slaughtneil v Swatragh (Sunday, Owenbeg, 3pm)

SWATRAGH beat Slaughtneil in the Derry league final back at the start of August. It was a narrow victory, but enough to instil belief in the Davitt’s that this could be the year they will break their neighbours’ stranglehold on the championship crown.

Since then Swatragh have done what needed to be done in three championship outings, two of which were against Ballinascreen.

The ’Screen caused them some problems in both games, but Swatragh never looked like losing either tie and are into the final without writing their credentials in large letters.

In periods during each of their games they showed that their style of play has changed from previous seasons and moved closer to the possession game that Slaughtneil has employed over their term at the top of the pile. That came through best in the Lavey group game where Dara McGuckian was the main beneficiary.

McGuckian was also impressive at times in the semi-final at the start of the month, taking four points over the hour.

The McNicholl sisters have been consistent scorers over a number of seasons and both are deployed by Gabriel Crawford in the forward line which adds to the scoring potential of the team.

However, no team has really threatened their defence in the manner that Slaughtneil are capable. That is likely to change on Sunday and how well they cope with Slaughtneil’s pacey forward line will decide whether they break the Emmett’s winning sequence that stretches back to 2015.

That forward line has been in brilliant form in the last two outings – first against Bellaghy and then against Lavey in the semi-final in Foreglen.

In the latter game Clíodhna Ní Mhianáin was a surprise choice at centre-forward, but there was a lot of space created down the centre as a result and Tina Bradley sped through it.

The former Offaly star finished with 2-8 in Foreglen, but there were also impressive performances up-front from Sinéad Mellon and Olivia Rafferty in the corners, Cliona Mulholland coming through from midfield and the returned Siobhán Bradley.

The latter missed the past two seasons due to the birth of two children, but she still found time to manage last year’s winning side. She has been a forceful presence on the right wing in their games to date.

While Ní Mhianáin’s selection at centre forward was one surprise, the other came with Aoife Ní Chaiside at full-back.

Defence was not really threatened by any of the teams to date – but it looks fairly formidable with Louise Dougan deployed on the wing as part of a half-back line with Brídín McAlister and Clare McGrath.

Gráinne Ní Chatháin was unavailable for the semi-final, but could push for inclusion for the decider. She last started in a Slaughtneil side in the drawn final of 2020 when she damaged her ACL.

That was the closest Swatragh came to dethroning their neighbours. They didn’t make last year’s final and, despite the league final victory earlier in the summer, will come into this decider very much as underdogs.

The first 20 minutes will determine the outcome of the game. If Slaughtneil gain the upper hand during that period, they will push on to a comfortable victory. If Swatragh stay in contention, they will grow in confidence.

However, even if Swatragh play to full potential, it still will be a huge achievement if they bridge the gap to their last crown in 2005.

Ulster Junior A Camogie Championship preliminary round : Crosserlough (Cavan) v Glen (Derry) (Saturday, Crosserlough, 1pm)

THE provincial club championships get under way this weekend with the junior preliminary round in Crosserlough between two previous winners of the competition.

The home side took back to back titles in 2017-18, while Glen’s provincial success came before Christmas last year, although it was back-dated to 2020.

That Glen side came close to making the breakthrough for Ulster at All-Ireland level and possibly showed the way for their successors, another Derry winner Eoghan Rua, Coleraine earlier this year.

The last two campaigns therefore indicates that the pendulum has swung towards teams from the Oak Leaf at this level and a fortnight ago in their domestic final Glen looked in good shape to repeat their provincial success.

With Clare Gunning in excellent form on frees, they took an early lead on Kilrea and never looked like being caught, with Leanne McCrystal driving through the middle and causing havoc around her. In the end, Glen won 0-11 to 0-7.

County players Caoimhe Glass and Rebecca Kirkpatrick orchestrated things around the middle, while Nuala Convery seems to be the player to pick up the one-on-one marking jobs.

Crosserlough lost their county crown last year to Laragh United who didn’t fare too well against Eoghan Rua in Ulster, inexperience handing the initiative to the Coleraine team.

Crosserlough, though, have returned this year unbeaten in the Cavan senior grade and their second team also won the junior title.

They have more experience in Ulster and, on their home pitch, will cause Glen plenty of bother.

Erinn Galligan has been around for a while now but had a good season with the county and seems to have transferred that form to the club scene.

Others to impress this season have been Niamh Reilly, Orla and Áine Smith, Hannah Boylan and free-taker Sinéad McKenna.

Glen, however, are a pretty solid all-round team and if Breena O’Loughlin and Leanne McCrystal can back up the free-taking of Gunning, they should get the ticket through to next weekend’s semi-final with Armagh champions Granemore.

The other semi-final will be between newly-crowned Down champions An Ríocht and first time Antrim winners Brídíní Óga Glenravel.