Antrim ladies on verge of All-Ireland dream



Antrim v Wicklow

Sunday, Croke Park, 11.45pm

AFTER five games Antrim find themselves in an All-Ireland Junior final, an achievement that seemed somewhat unlikely at the start of the season.

New management Emma Kelly and Kyla Trainer, who used to play for Down, only joined the team at the start of the season and had little time to prepare.

Their team lost to Leitrim and Louth during the league but did pick up a win over Derry. However, when championship arrived the opened with a loss to the Oak Leafers.

After that game Kelly told Gaelic Life that consistency was the issue with the Saffrons.

She said that the team were capable of playing well for 20 minutes but then they would slack off.

Yet they bounced back to win against Carlow and Limerick. Their win over Limerick was particularly impressive as they won by 5-10 to 2-7, highlighting their potency in front of goal. Theresa Mallon, Caitlin Taggart, Grainne McLaughlin, Cathy Carey and Aoife Taggart played their part in attack.

Captain Aislinn McFarland also played a leader’s role this season as she dropped into full-back line to shore up the defence and lead the younger players around her.

One of the issues that Kelly wanted to address during the campaign was how the Antrim players approached the game.

She felt that a lot of the time they were playing as individuals and not for the team. That was something she felt had happened during the league and at the start of the championship. But as the competition wore on, her side seemed to improve and they started playing better as a unit.

After loss to Wicklow in round four of the group stages, they ended up in an All-Ireland semi-final against Carlow. The game was agonisingly close and Antrim needed extra-time to earn the win, 3-22 to 3-18.

Ciara Brown, one of the younger players on the team at 19, said that she loved the close nature of the clash and had scored a goal during the game. The two teams went score for score in normal time. Then in extra-time Antrim showed that they had the belief and fought for their win.

Michelle Magee came on as a sub in that match and scored 1-5. Caitlin Taggart got the other major for Antrim.

However, this weekend’s final wil be Antrim’s greatest test. Wicklow retained their status in Division Three of the National League after beating Fermanagh.

They then went on to win all of their championship matches on the run to this final. That included a victory over Antrim.

The Saffrons trailed by 1-4 to 0-12 at half time in that game, Aoife Taggart with the goal, but rallied in the second half and scored eight points to Wicklow’s five.

If Emma Kelly’s team are to reverse that result then they are going to need to create a greater level of consistency in their performance or their dreams of bringing the All-Ireland Junior title back to the county for the first time since 2012 will disappear.

Verdict: Antrim

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere

No tags for this post.

Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW