Derry fall to Down to Ulster Camogie Championship

Derry's Dervla O'Kane.
Derry's Dervla O'Kane.

2019 Ulster Camogie Championship Semi-Final

Derry 1-6 Down 1-11

Derry crashed out of the Ulster Senior Camogie Championship after losing out to Down in a tough and at times frantic contest in Armagh on Saturday.

The game was played as the curtain raiser to the Tyrone versus Antrim Ulster Senior football quarter-final and a sizeable crowd came through the turnstiles for the small ball action.

On the field both sides were guilty of some poor shooting, Derry finishing with nine wides while the Mourne County emerged victorious despite hitting 11 off target.

Grainne McGoldrick impressed as ever for Derry, hitting 1-4, while Down's Paula Gribben, one of the stars of the Ulster scene, hit 1-2, including an impressive major which effectively killed off the Derry challenge.

Derry opened the scoring after just30 seconds, claiming possession right from the throw-in. Grainne McNicholl was at hand to tap over the early free. Both sides would register wides through Aoife Quinn and Aimee McAleenan before Niamh Mallon knocked over a placed ball to open her side's account
and restore parity.

Sorcha McCartan, a famous surname in the Down sporting arena, tapped over at the second time of asking after a brave block from Aoife Ni Chaiside.

Mairead McNicholl drew the sides level for the second time at two points apiece with 11 minutes on the clock as the team in white and red finally
registered a score from play.

Down had an opportunity to take the lead almost immediately however but the instinct and bravery of Ni Chaiside told as she got across to block McCartan down once again.

The attacking was relentless without either side really troubling the scoreboard. Shannon Graham looked to be through on goal but McGoldrick’s hand-pass was off the mark and the ball rolled wide, the goal chance gone.

McGoldrick edged Derry in front not long after with a neat finish after some fine interplay with Mary Hegarty and Aoife Quinn linking up.

The sides were tied for the third time with neither side able to claim any real ascendancy. Aoife Keown would be the next to raise a flag with arguably
the score of the game. The midfielder claimed possession way out on the left flank before unleashing a shot from a seemingly impossible angle, physics however, was defied as the ball sailed between the sticks.

In this period before the break, Derek Dunne’s team began to grasp a real stranglehold on the contest as Dearbhla Magee burst through like a train
before pointing. It would be three in as many minutes for those in black and red as McCartan put her hat in the ring for score of the game, this time the range looking improbable but the ball sailed between the sticks to further reinforce their dominance.

Down would go on to hit five unanswered scores as both Gribben and Niamh Mallon sent over scores as Derry struggled to gain possession from their own kick-outs to leave it 0-3 to 0-8 in favour of the Mourne side at the break.

McGoldrick was the shining light in the Oak Leaf side and as the tunnel grew darker, she shone brightest with a fine individual score to stop the rot.

The resurgence didn’t last long as Mallon fired over from the very next attack as the previously wasteful Ulster champions grew more economical in front of goal. It could have been worse for Derry as Aimee McAleenan’s major was ruled out for an earlier infringement spotted by the man in the middle.

McGoldrick was keen to drag her team back into the game and fired over a fine point before being played in on goal by Mairead McNicholl. The sharpshooting forward made no mistake, showing superb accuracy to find the bottom right corner of the net.

The goal put a solitary point between the sides with little over 10 minutes left to play and a real sense of life was breathed into the underdogs' challenge.
Sara Louise Carr almost replied with a goal at the other end only for a fine block and interception from Aine McAlister.

The Oak Leafers then shot wide with a chance to equalise before Gribben put two between the sides from a free which visibly settled her team’s nerves. Indeed Gribben would have the final say of the contest as she jinked by two defenders before sending a thunderbolt into the back of the net to send her team into the final.

Derry battled to get back into the game but failed in their pursuit of dethroning the provincial champions. Down will now look to improve for the
decider while Derry will have to lick their wounds until next year and hope to build on some real potential.

Derry: Niamh McQuillan; Caoimhe Glass, Brona Ni Chaiside, Shauneen Donaghy; Megan Kerr, Aoife Ni Chaiside, Aine McAlister; Grainne McNicholl (0-1 1f), Dervla O’Kane; Grainne McGoldrick (1-4 1f), Shauna Quinn, Mairead McNicholl (0-1); Aoife Quinn, Shannon Graham, Mary Hegarty.
Subs: Cait McEldowney for G McNicholl (43), Therese Mellon for M Hegarty (47), Aine Kelly for S Quinn (59)

Down: Catherine McGourty; Nicole Kelly, Alannah Savage, Clare McGilligan; Karen McMullan, Dearbhla Magee, Catherine Rocks; Aimee McAleenan, Aoife Keown (0-1); Sara Louise Carr (0-2), Sorcha McCartan (0-2), Paula Gribben (1-2, 1f); Niamh Mallon (0-6 3f), Caitriona Caldwell, Fionnula Carr.
Subs: Orla Gribben for N Mellon (49), Karen Tinnelly for K McMullan (55), Neisha McCullough for S McCartan (59)

Referee: Philip McCabe (Cavan)