Antrim’s U16 Ulster title winning heroes had to fight hard for survival in the first game of their all Ireland challenge against a stiff breeze and a feisty Wexford at Sarsfields in Belfast in wet, muddy conditions which prevented both sides from displaying the skills of which they are capable. The game was originally to have been played at 2.30pm at Lámh Dhearg but the pitch was only declared unfit for play after the Wexford contingent had made the long journey north and a local pitch had to be found quickly and Cumann Phádráig Sáirséil duly obliged ,for which the Antrim Executive are very grateful.
Wexford were always going to be a step up from the various Ulster teams Antrim have beaten recently and the visitors displayed a lot of strength and determination by taking an early 2 point lead through Annie Stafford and a free from Michelle Martin. Antrim were forced to defend with considerable conviction at this stage and Erin Elliot and Bronagh McCaughan organised the rear-guard action very well. Wexford obviously hadn’t come to fulfil a fixture but badly wanted a win. The Wee Saffs took a while to get into their stride but Birthday twin Niamh O’Neill opened the home scoring with a nice point and Chloe Higgins, Áine Mulholland and Niamh Adams started the mills grinding in midfield .The game developed into a stop-start series of niggling fouls and frees as referee Philip McDonald asserted his authority. Wexford went further ahead with another free from Martin and a second Stafford point from play, before Tierna Carson converted a fine point, leaving a half-time score of Antrim 0-02 Wexford 0-04
Antrim came out for the second half with the breeze in their favour and set about the Wexford defence with great gusto. Sarah Vaughan, whose pace had worried Wexford corner back Orla Nimo all afternoon broke through the visitor’s defence for a lighting quick point to bring Antrim right back into the game. Antrim pushed forward looking for more as they sensed tiredness in the Visitors game but In a brief period of attacking play Amy Cardiff scored a breakaway point for Wexford to ease the pressure on them slightly. The remainder of the game belonged to Antrim, however, as they strove to claw back the 2 points needed to level the game and the pressure told in the end as fouls on Tierna Carson and Annie Laverty let Antrim in, with old-timer Johanna McKeown pointing both frees to finish the game at five points each. Manager Catherine O’Hara was pleased with her team’s efforts in their All -Ireland opener. “The girls showed us character and guts today against a very good Wexford side that came for the win. We were up against it at times on a difficult pitch which probably suited the bigger, more physical Wexford camógs, but a draw is a fair result. Remember we were without three key players today in Caitrín Dobbin, Kirsty McLeod and Eimhear Costello so we go to Waterford next week-end with everything to play for.”
S.Kane , K.McKillop, E.Elliot,
B.McCaughan, C.Kearney, T.O’Neill, A.Mulholland (captain),N.Adams, C.Higgins, N.O’Neill
(0-1), T.Carson (0-1), A.Laverty, S.McCloskey, J.McKeown( 0-2 f), S.Vaughan(
0-1). PHOTOS TO FOLLOW