Louth 3-15 Antrim 1-5
Louth swept into the All-Ireland JFC decider with a comprehensive victory over Antrim in Clones on Saturday 24th August.
Having lost to the Saffrons in the league semi-final at the same venue in April, Darren Bishop’s team were determined not to be caught again as they looked to make it back-to-back All-Ireland final appearances.
The Leinster champions were in control for most of the contest and led by 0-6 to 0-1 after 16 minutes with Kate Flood (3), Niamh Rice (2) and Rebecca Carr all on target to a solitary reply from Cathy Carey. Despite Antrm’s best efforts in attack they found the going tough against a strong Louth defence.
“I think the girls knew what was at stake: the prize of getting back to Croke Park and playing in an All-Ireland final,” Bishop told The Dundalk Democrat after the game. “That’s where they want to be, that’s where they are now and they knew what they had to do: outwork Antrim all over the pitch, because they’re a good team… I can’t really fault their attitude.”
With less than 10 minutes to the interval, Antrim were given renewed hope when Lara Dahunsi took advantage of a defensive error to grab the game’s opening goal to reduce the deficit to two points.
Flood replied from a free, though points from Dahunsi and a Carey free left just the minimum between them.
However, a late surge from Louth which saw Rebecca Carr and Susan and Eimear Byrne notch points gave them a four-point half-time lead, 0-10 to 1-3 and but for a wonderful save from Anna McCann to deny the dangerous Rice, it could have been much better for Louth.
“That could have been the turning point, but we’re that type of team; we never give up, we never make it easy for the opposition,” said captain Flood of the goal concession. “That’s something we’ve worked on all year, no matter what the score is.”
Already without Mairead Cooper to injury, the loss of their inspirational midfielder Saoirse Tennyson shortly after the resumption was a major blow to Sean O’Kane’s side who only managed two second half points in comparison to a rampant Louth’s 3-5; a brace of goals coming from Flood and another from substitute Lauren Boyle.
When play resumed, Carey added a point from the resultant free, and that would be as close as the Ulster side would come. Louth centre-back Michelle McMahon came forward to send over, while Carr hit her third point of the afternoon. The Reds, despite seeing Eilis Hand sent to the sin-bin, then took a major step towards a second successive final appearance as a fine pass from sub Sinead Woods found Flood in space and the skipper beat a couple of defenders before shooting past McCann.
Aine Tubridy got Antrim’s last score of the game, while they were denied a second goal when Una Pearson saved a penalty from Orla Corr, before Flood added two further points and her side’s third goal late on.
Louth now meet Fermanagh in the decider on September 15 in Croke Park in what will be the first ever championship meeting of the sides.
“Croke Park is what everyone wants moving in at the start of a year. We were there last year and we’re delighted to be back,” said Flood.
Louth: Una Pearson; Eilis Hand, Sarah Quinn, Shannen McLaughlin; Ceire Nolan, Michelle McMahon (0-1), Áine Breen; Eimear Byrne (0-1), Aoife Byrne; Rebecca Carr (0-3), Susan Byrne (0-1), Aoife Russell; Jennifer McGuinness, Kate Flood (2-6, 0-5 frees), Niamh Rice (0-2)
Subs: Deirbhile Osborne for Russell (HT), Lauren Boyle (1-1, 0-1 free) for McGuinness (39), Sinead Woods for A Byrne (44), Aoife Halligan for Breen (55), Seoda Matthews for Hand (55).
Antrim: Anna McCann; Sarah Haughey, Emma Kelly, Nicole Killeen; Ciara Brown, Saoirse Tennyson, Kayla Farren; Orla Corr, Emma Magee; Maria Hanna, Aislinn McFarland, Áine Tubridy (0-1), Lara Dahunsi (1-1), Niamh Enright, Cathy Carey (0-3, one free)
Subs: Caoimhe Stewart for Tennyson (33), Mairiosa McGourty for Enright (49), Caitlín Taggart for Farren (50), Aoife Taggart for Corr (53), Niamh Webb for McFarland (55)
Referee: Siobhán Coyle (Donegal)
Report by Dermot Woods | Photos by Warren Matthews