Hurling & Camogie

Antrim champions Glenravel face biggest test to date against Granemore

Rachael Merry will carry much of Granemore's scoring threat in their Ulster Junior A final against Glenravel tomorrow
Rachael Merry will carry much of Granemore's scoring threat in their Ulster Junior A final against Glenravel tomorrow Rachael Merry will carry much of Granemore's scoring threat in their Ulster Junior A final against Glenravel tomorrow

AIB Ulster Junior A Club final: Granemore (Armagh) v Brídíní Óga, Glenravel (Antrim) (tomorrow, Derrytresk, 1pm)

THIS competition should have been completed three weeks ago, but an appeal held up the Granemore v Crosserlough semi-final and we are now down to a result on the day final with the All-Ireland semi-final just a week away.

Before a sliotar had been struck in the competition, it was widely expected that the winners of the preliminary round between Crosserlough and Glen, both provincial champions in the last five years, would go on to win the title.

The Cavan club won that game but were then taken to extra-time in Granemore when Rachael Merry pointed a free in the third minute of added time. Crosserlough also led at half-time in extra-time. But Merry equalised in the sixth minute of the second half and two minutes later Katie Doyle clinched a place in the final with a fine point from play to set up a novel final.

Granemore had already survived a drawn Armagh semi-final with Keady and then left it very late in the Armagh final.

That game was four minutes into added time and they trailed by a point, all their scores up until that moment coming from Merry frees. Then Ailish McVeigh launched a Hail Mary effort towards the Ballymacnab goals. It ended up in the net for the most dramatic of finishes in the Atheltic Grounds.

Brídíní Óga wouldn’t have been many people’s favourites to come out of Antrim never mind reach an Ulster final. The Glenravel club had been knocking on the door for a few years and lost three consecutive finals to neighbours Loughgiel. Then they lost the 2020 semi-final to Rossa and fell at the first hurdle last year to Cargin. Their time seemed to have passed.

However, they surprised many by beating Creggan, Loughgiel, Cargin and then Portglenone in the final to take their first Antrim title back in October.

A month ago they travelled down to Kilkeel to oust An Ríocht with goals from Molly Woulahan and Liverpool-based student Aimee Traynor.

Traynor is one of two Glenravel players (Niamh McKay is the other) based in university in Britain, while Antrim county player Laoise McKenna and her sister Maria have relocated to Galway this summer. It has made collective training difficult for the north Antrim club.

They have also lost the services of Clodagh McPeake, who was injured in the Cargin semi-final, while another of this season’s Antrim minors, Sarah Fyfe, missed the semi-final with An Ríocht following an injury sustained in the Ulster Intermediate football championship against Steelstown and is unlikely to feature in the final.

Granemore lost the services of Ciara Hill to injury earlier in the season, but the Armagh All-Ireland medallist in 2020 appeared as a late substitute in the Crosserlough semi-final and is likely to feature at an earlier point in the final.

Goalie Ciarraí Devlin and Merry are the only two Granemore players who played in the most recent All-Ireland final, while Lucy Doyle and Ciara Carr, both just 16, are seen as rising stars in the county.

Granemore are possibly favourites having gone to the edge on a couple of occasions and come through the tougher end of the draw. Have the Antrim champions been tested yet? They will find out tomorrow.