All Saints GFC in Ballymena hosted the Ulster Colleges Senior Camogie finals on Saturday past and first up was the B final between St. Pius X Magherafelt and Loreto, Coleraine with the Coleraine girls showing their club experience to help secure the title for their school.
In the Senior ‘A’ Final, Corn Uan Uladh, St Patrick’s Maghera were seeking their fourth successive Colleges’ Senior title and the chance to extend their record title count to 15 victories in 26 seasons of Ulster Colleges competition. Opponents Cross and Passion, Ballycastle had beaten St Patrick’s in the group stages but now faced a full strength St Patrick’s side.
St Patrick’s fielded a very strong fifteen with their team built around experienced trio Aoife Ní Chaiside, Maebh Quinn and Shauna Quinn who all won Intermediate All-Ireland medals with their county earlier in the season and these three would be central to the St Patrick’s efforts throughout the hour.
Knowing they were up against a very strong team, and giving away an age differential, the Ballycastle girls produced a very energetic opening quarter as they competed well all over the pitch.
While the Antrim girls worked on containing the St Patrick’s team the Maghera girls were working on keeping Ballycastle in the game as they had a succession of wides and lead only by one point at the end of the first quarter. Ballycastle would have been happy with this but St Patrick’s upped their performance in the second quarter with Mairead McNicholl their top sharp shooter as the favorites grabbed a significant 0-7 to 0-1 half-time lead.
The dominance of St Patrick’s in so many positions all over the field in that first half and the limited scoring opportunities which Ballycastle had, meant that the opening ten minutes of the second half would be very important.
St Patrick’s seemed to sense this and they restarted where they had left off in the opening half. Orlaith Ní Mhaoláin and Shauna Quinn fired over two excellent points from play and when Mairead McNicholl finished superbly to the Ballycastle net after seven minutes of the half it was effectively game over, such was their positional dominance.
Credit to the Ballycastle girls that they kept battling hard and a twelfth minute goal from Maeve Lofthouse offered a brief glimmer of hope for them. That flickering flame of opportunity was, though, quickly extinguished as sub Adrienne Gorman fired in the first of two goals to guarantee St Patrick’s their fourth title in a row.
The final quarter saw more St Patrick’s subs come in to the game but the strength of their back nine, where Erin Burns – the baby of the team – excelled in goals, meant that they remained well on top in terms of possession and scores with star performer on the day, Mairead McNicholl, grabbing three second half points to complete her Player of the Match performance on the day.
The victory on Saturday brought St Patrick’s their fourth Ulster Senior Camogie title in a row, (only the second time this has been achieved, St Patrick’s having previously claimed four titles between 2002–5), and further cements the College’s place at the top of the all time list of Corn Uan Uladh title winners,(a remarkable 15 titles in 26 years).
Their challenge in the New Year, though, is a visit to Kilkenny for the All-Ireland semi-final where schools such as Loreto and Presentation have previously quashed the hopes of the St Patrick’s girls.
Achieving success in that game would certainly be a huge step in the quest to bring that elusive All-Ireland ‘A’ Camogie title to St Patrick’s for the first time. No doubt St Patrick’s coaches Catriona Scott and Anne Quinn – with so much experience of winning Ulster titles - will demand that the girls push themselves harder than ever over the next few months in an effort to become the first St Patrick’s team to claim that Senior ‘A’ All-Ireland title.
St Patrick’s: Erin Burns, Anecia Duffy, Maeve Quinn, Caitlin Ní Cheallaigh, Aoife Shaw, Aoife Ní Chaiside capt., Charlotte Burke, Shauna Quinn 0-2, Orlaith Ní Mhaoláin 0-1, Claire Graham, Brona Ní Chaiside, Dervla O’Kane 0-1, Mairead McNicholl 1-8, 0-5 frees, Saoirse McPeake, Eimhear McNicholl.
Subs: Adrienne Gorman 2-1 for S McPeake (38), Claire Burns for C Graham (51), Aoife Quinn for O Ní Mhaoláin (53), Cara Dillon for A Duffy (58).
Cross & Passion: Danielle McMichael, Bronagh McCaughan, Maria Donnelly, Katie McKinley, Ciara Boyle, Erin Elliott, Orlaith McAlinden, Kathryn Donnelly, Niamh O’Neill, Tara O’Neill, Julie Dixon, Emma Laverty, Maeve Lofthouse, Aine Boyle, Orlagh O Hara capt.
Subs: Annie Laverty for K McKinley (17), Caitrin Dobbin for A Boyle (ht), Cliodhna McFadden for J Dixon (43).
Referee : Julie O’Neill (Armagh)