Fire Stop and Seal 1st Senior semi-final report
Ballycastle 1-14 Portglenone 2-10
From Séamas Mac Giolla Fhinnéin
Ballycastle reached their second ever Antrim senior final after surviving a late Portglenone goal from Eimear McKee in an entertaining opening semi-final in Glenravel on Saturday.
Overall the Town looked the more composed team despite lining out with eight of the minor team that won their championship at the same venue in April.
Up front Kathryn and Áine Donnelly caused problems throughout with their pace, while both Niamh Donnellys pressed forward to draw defenders, and Rhona Donnelly picked up a lot of loose ball around midfield.
However in defence they tended to give away a lot of frees particularly during the first half when they had to stage a late rally to go in at 1-7 to 1-6 ahead at the break.
Portglenone started three short of the team that defeated Rossa with Therese McAleese (honeymoon), Cristin O’Kane (travelling) and Una Doherty (injured) all out. Adding to their woes, Nuala Kelly picked up a bad injury near the end of the first half. So really, bowing out of the championship by a point was a fair effort in the circumstances.
However they will turn over a couple of missed opportunities as "what ifs” that might have seen them over the line.
Their defence was solid enough throughout and there was industry all over the field, but in reality Katie McAleese, at midfield, was always going to be their main source of scores, while Jane Carey threatened a few times in the last quarter. Indeed Eimear McKee made an impression off the bench for Nuala Kelly.
Ballycastle got the better start with a 10th minute goal from Áine Donnelly and led by 1-3 to 0-3 at the end of the first quarter with Kathryn Donnelly shooting two excellent points. However they didn’t build on that advantage and Katie McAleese hit the target with three frees inside two minutes between 25th and 27th minutes with the third dipping under for a goal and a 1-6 to 1-3 lead.
Ballycastle however responded well before the break and went in 1-7 to 1-6 ahead with midfielder Niamh Donnelly firing over two fine scores from distance, and Caoimhe Wright opening her account with a free right on the short whistle.
During the opening 20 minutes of the second half that single point still separated the teams, points from Anna Kelly and Katie drawing responses from Caoimhe Wright (free) and Aine Donelly.
Another couple of scores followed with points from Eimear McKee and Jane Carey narrowing the gap to 1-11 to 1-10 in the 56th minute.
However three late points (two from Niamh Donnelly and one from Kathryn Donnelly) opened a four points lead for Ballycastle in injury time, just a big enough cushion to soften the blow when Eimear McKee pulled on a loose ball following a long free from Katie McAleese. A goal and now a single point lead. But Ballycastle steadied and in hindsight never looked likely to lose.
Ballycastle: Aoife McGowan, Maria Donnelly, Orla Donnelly, Bronagh McKeague, Catherine McShane, Emma Connor, Cliodhna Donnelly, Niamh Donnelly 0-5, 0-2 frees, Michaela Beattie, Niamh Anne Donnelly, Kathryn Donnelly 0-5, Rhona Donnelly, Aine Donnelly 1-2, Caoimhe Wright 0-2 frees, Méabh O’Neill.
Subs : Niamh O’Neill for M O’Neill (HT), Emma Laverty for NA Donnelly (52).
Portglenone: Patricia McCarry, Maria McLarnon, Caitriona Hasson, Aine Mulholland, Teresa Scullion, Catherine O’Kane, Roisin Kelly, Nuala Kelly, Katie McAleese 1-5, 1-4 frees, Anna Kelly 0-1, Louise Crozier 0-1, Eimear Donaghy, Siobhan Doherty, Jane Carey, Niamh McKee 0-1.
Subs : Eimear McKee 1-1 for Nuala Kelly (28)
Referee : Vincent Boyle (Dunloy)