Loughgiel scratch seven-year itch to edge great rivals Slaughtneil for Ulster senior title

Loughgiel's Caitrin Dobbin wheels away to celebrate the team's second goal against Slaughtneil in the Ulster Senior Camogie Club Championship final at Páirc Esler, Newry Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.
Séamas McAleenan

AIB Ulster Senior Club Final: Loughgiel (Antrim) 2-13 Slaughtneil (Derry) 1-11

WHEN Loughgiel defeated Slaughtneil in the 2015 AIB Ulster senior final for Úna McNaughton to lift the provincial trophy, they probably didn’t think that it would take another seven seasons before Úna’s sister Lucia and her joint captain Amy Boyle would lift the trophy again for the Shamrocks.

There have been six successive defeats at the hands of Slaughtneil in the interim, but team manager Benny Dillon maintained that the players and the club never lost hope.

“I suppose we are just relieved to get over the line. It’s that on-going thing, six years and everyone wondering will we ever get there.

“But we had this before with the hurlers away back. They couldn’t win the county title and then there was relief when they did. That’s how it feels for us today.”

Turning to the game itself, Dillon was adamant that the work-rate of the team was going to get them over the line.

“The way we started the game today, I felt we wouldn’t be beaten for effort. Our work-rate was phenomenal. The team always had the talent.

“We knew Slaughtneil would have a good spell. They got that and we were still ahead and then we were able to push on.

“Look, it is just a relief to get our hands on the Cup again.”

The Antrim champions were deserving winners with Roisin McCormick, who hadn’t started any of the four games in the Antrim championship, shooting 1-6 in a Player of the Match performance.

Somehow Loughgiel created the space for McCormick and Caitrin Dobbin to be isolated with their direct opponents and no-one between them and Slaughtneil’s goals.

McCormick almost had an early goal before Dobbin set her up for the opening point and then, from the puck out, Amy Boyle raced through the middle and popped a second point.

Slaughtneil worked their way into the game with three points from Tina Bradley frees to take the lead. But Úna McNaughton then levelled before first McCormick after 14 minutes and Dobbin three minutes later ran through for goals to put Loughgiel in command of the tie.

Another Bradley free was cancelled by McCormick at the other end, before the Derry side hit their purple patch. Louise Dougan from a long free and Sinéad Mellon closed the gap before Bradley ran through the centre unchallenged and buried a goal in the 26th minute.

The game was back on at 2-5 to 1-7 at the break and Cliona Mulholland levelled matters in the 36th minute after both free-takers had been off target.

In previous finals, Slaughtneil were able to push through to a winning position. Not on Saturday.

Instead points from McCormick, Annie Lynn and Anna Connolly in quick succession opened a gap. There was a pause for a Dougan free before McCormick widened the gap to five points with three beautiful scores between the 43rd and 49th minute.

It was now Loughgiel’s to lose. Their defence held tight though while Christine Laverty and McCormick with a free stretched the gap to six.

Munster champions Drum and Inch are now in their sights. That game will take place in three weeks time and, given Slaughtneil’s profile on the All-Ireland stage, Loughgiel will feel they too can go further.

Loughgiel: E Boyle; C Campbell, K Lynn, C McKillop; M Lynn, Ú McNaughton (0-1), S Doran; A Boyle (0-2), L McNaughton, C Laverty (0-1), M McKillen, A Connolly (0-1); C Dobbin (1-1), R McCormick (1-6, 0-1 free), A Lynn (0-1)

Subs: K McKillop for A Lynn (47), C Boyle for C Campbell (60 + 2)

Slaughtneil: J McMullan; O McNeill, A Ní Chaiside, N McCullagh; L Dougan, B McAllister, C McGrath; Céat McEldowney, C Mulholland (0-1); C Ní Mhianáin (0-1), T Bradley (1-6, 0-6 frees), G Ní Chatháin; O Rafferty, E McGuigan, S Mellon (0-1)

Subs: Chantelle McEldowney for E McGuigan (44)

Referee: G Donegal (Dublin)