Ballycastle look to end Loughgiel's reign as Antrim champions
Antrim Senior Camogie Championship
TOMORROW is semi-finals day in Antrim with the games running simultaneously in Ballymena and nearby Ahoghill.
The big attraction is arguably in Slemish Park in Ballymena with Loughgiel putting their title on the line against Ballycastle in a repeat of last year’s final.
The Shamrocks are going for their eight successive crown in Antrim and four of the last seven finals have featured final victories over their seaside neighbours.
After a closely-fought final in Armoy two years ago, Ballycastle were expected to challenge hard in last year’s final. However the wide open spaces of Portglenone suited Loughgiel and they were able to create the openings for Roisin McCormick and Caitrin Dobbin to run at the Town defence. The game was over well before the final whistle with McCormick claiming Player of the Match on 1-9.
McCormick and Dobbin also shone bright in Croke Park last month as so did Maeve Kelly who is the main threat to the Shamrocks continuing their domination in the Glens. Maeve and her younger sister, county minor All-Ireland winning captain Fionnuala, hit five goals between them last Sunday against Cushendall. The Loughgiel defence however will be a lot more difficult to break down.
Ballycastle also have other exciting minors coming through in Nuala Devlin and Rhiana McBride, but it would be a lot to expect that they are ready to offer the kind of support to the older Kelly that will be needed to stop Loughgiel.
The Shamrocks had seven players that started in Croke Park for Antrim, another three came in as substitutes while there were a further four in the panel. That is the kind of experience that gets club teams through tight games.
Despite that Loughgiel suffered defeat to Dunloy in their last outing, a round robin championship fixture two weeks ago.
It was a closely-fought game right through and Dunloy showed the type of determination required to win at the top level, perhaps even to take their first title in 18 seasons.
Now their semi-final task is to beat Cushendall in Ahoghill. In the round robin game between the pair a few weeks ago, Dunloy were easing up in the second half when they lost Chloe Drain to a straight red card just before the second water break.
Cushendall closed the gap slightly in the time left, but they are not really in a position to challenge the Cúchulainn’s who will have Drain back in defence after serving her suspension of two matches.
Nicole O’Neill, Caoimhe Conlon and Aileen McManus all have the experience to guide younger players such as Áine Magill, the Molloy sisters and Cassie McArthur through to their first county final.
Many of the Cushendall players featured in the 2018 final which didn’t go so well for them. Colleen Patterson and the Cosgrove and McKillop sisters are strong experienced players but the ‘Dall don’t have the overall team play to really trouble Dunloy.
Antrim Senior semi-finals
Saturday, October 23
Ahoghill (4pm): Dunloy v Cushendall
Ballymena (4pm): Loughgiel v Ballycastle