Antrim hold-on in dramatic finale to book place in All-Ireland intermediate final
All-Ireland Intermediate Championship semi-final: Antrim 2-13 Galway 1-13
THERE was injury-time drama in Clones on Saturday evening as Antrim fended off two late frees in the All-Ireland Intermediate semi-final.
The first attempt was caught by Nicole O’Neill and as she off-loaded, referee Philip McDonnell of Cavan blew his whistle. The Antrim bench and management were already halfway across the pitch celebrating what they thought was the final whistle.
Instead there was another free in, right in front of a packed Antrim goal-mouth and this time Áine Keane’s low drive was killed by Maeve Kelly. Now there was no holding back the celebrations as Antrim reached their second successive All-Ireland final.
A draw and extra time would have been an injustice to the Saffron performance. They hit the ground running and were 2-3 to 0-3 up after just nine minutes – and that despite Ava Lynskey sprinting through for the opening score right from the throw-in.
Aine Magill, who hadn’t played in the league quarter-final when Antrim also edged past the westerners by a goal, opened Antrim’s account with a fine individual point and then set up Róisín McCormick for a fifth minute goal.
Magill found the net herself after point from McCormick and Maeve Kelly and those two early goals kept Antrim in command for the most of the game before a Lynskey goal in the second minute of injury time set up a tense finish.
Cáitríona Graham in goals had a great game, pulling off several saves and she was well protected by a strong defensive unit in which Niamh Donnelly in particular was outstanding.
Antrim led by 2-7 to 0-7 at the break with Magill scoring her fourth point early in the second half, neatly intercepting a pass out of the Galway defence and Nicole O’Neill fired over two monster frees to cancel out two points from Keane and another from Máiréad Dillon who found space in the gap between midfield and the Antrim half-back line.
By the second water-break the Saffrons led 2-11 to 0-10. However the introduction of two Galway substitutes momentarily caught Antrim out and Rachel Burke and Tegan Canning (2) closed the gap with ten minutes remaining.
But a long diagonal ball out of defence by Nicole O’Neill found Róisín McCormick and the Loughgiel ace drew the free which she pointed, as she did once more for a foul on Maeve Kelly as the clocked ticked into injury time.
Antrim were coasting, but that situation changed two minutes later when a shot across goal by Burke went loose and Lynskey pounced for a goal. It led to a tense final few minutes before the Saffron roar greeted the final whistle.
Antrim: C Graham; C Drain, N Donnelly, M Lynn; C Patterson, C Conlon, M Connolly; L McNaughton, N O'Neill (0-2 frees); Christine Laverty, A Boyle, Á Magill (1-4); R McCormick (1-5, 0-4 frees), M Kelly (0-2), C Dobbin.
Subs: Ciara Laverty for Christine Laverty (37), A Connolly for A Boyle (45), S Devlin for C Drain (51), L McKenna for M Connolly (59), K Carey for C Dobbin (63).
Galway: F Ryan; C Donohue, L Ward, R Hannify; L Casserly, C Mahon, K Manning; M Burke, E Broderick (0-1); M Mannion, A Lynskey (1-1), K Mannion; C Kenny (0-1), M Dillon (0-2), Á Keane (0-5, 0-3 frees).