By Dan Bannon in Clones
Spirited Antrim dug deep to comeback from the brink of defeat to set up a Lidl NFL Division 4 Final with Fermanagh after an extra-time victory over Louth in St Tiarnach’s Park, Clones.
Goals in either half from Louth corner-forwards Niamh Rice and Lauren Boyle looked to have Darren Bishop’s troops through to a second successive league final. However, Antrim’s Cathy Carey goaled in the game’s dying minutes and sent the game into extra time.
The Ulster ladies were the better side overall and Ciara Durnein completed the comeback with a goal in extra-time in the scorching Monaghan sun.
Having suffered a heavy defeat to Louth earlier in the season, Antrim started much the brighter and they raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 early lead.
Two Caitlin Taggart frees bookended Antrim’s best period, while captain Saoirse Tennyson might have made the start brighter, when she blazed over the bar.
Lauren Boyle got Louth off the mark with the first of her five first-half points, and she was a constant threat, but two outstanding points from Lara Dahunsi pushed Antrim back into the lead. That would be the last time the Ulster ladies would lead until extra-time.
Boyle grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck to level with two scores, before she played the ball into her clubmate Niamh Rice for the game’s decisive goal, which was finished superbly.
Louth’s goal ensured they made the most of the numeric advantage with Orla Ni Chorra sent to the bin for Antrim, but they suffered indiscipline of their own when Ceire Nolan received a yellow. However the Leinster ladies finished the half 1-7 to 0-8 ahead.
Another sin bin for Louth after break for Éilís Hand had Antrim level when Cathy Carey converted the resultant free, while Aoife Taggart also found the target.
As the tension rose the teams exchanged scores, with Katie Flood superb for Louth while Carey kept the scoreboard ticking for Antrim.
Substitute Michelle Magee had the required impact for Seán O’Kane’s side, nudging Antrim back in the lead only for Flood to level with a free.
Louth looked to finally have gotten a grip on proceedings once they were back to 15. Corner forward Boyle had to survive on scraps in the second period, but her goal with ten minutes left looked to have sealed the win.
Cathy Carey had other ideas though, and her goal sent the game into extra time after the game ended at 1-14 to 2-11 after normal time.
A shellshocked Louth couldn’t recover in extra time, with Carey continuing with confidence to score two frees, which opened up a commanding lead. And it was left to Durenin to clinch the place in the final place against Fermanagh with a goal, while Louth could only muster three scores after normal time.
Scorers – Antrim: C Carey 1-7 (5f), C Taggart 0-4 (3f), L Dahunsi 0-4, C Durnein 1-0, A Taggart, S Tennyson, M Magee, M McCurdy and M Cooper 0-1 each. Louth: L Boyle 1-5 (1f), N Rice 1-4, K Flood 0-3 (1f), E Byrne and S Woods 0-1 each.
Antrim: A McCann; N Killeen, M Hana, O Ní Chorra; K Farren, C Browne, S Tennyson; A McFarland, L Dahunsi; C Taggart, C Carey, SL McLaughlin; M Cooper, M McCurdy, A Taggart.
Subs: M Magee for McLaughlin (37), C Durnein for Taggart (50), L Wallace for McCurdy (65).
Louth: U Pearson; S McLaughlin, E Hand, S Matthews; C Nolan, M McMahon, A Breen; R Carr, E Byrne; A Russell, S Byrne, S Woods; L Boyle, K Flood, N Rice.
Subs: C Woods for S Byrne (40), M McGuinness for Woods (65), G Murray for Hand (73).
Referee: Declan Callaghan (Donegal).Tweet