Report by Philip Doyle
Antrim Minor Ladies v Tyrone, 24/03/2018 — Championship First Round
Nobody saw that one coming!
Off the back of one of their poorest performances two weeks ago when they were given a consummate lesson by Cavan in how to win a football match, Antrim Minors travelled to St McCartan’s ground in Augher as underdogs, facing a Tyrone squad who have shown great promise over the last few years and by all accounts were expected to hand out a similar fate to Antrim if form was to be followed. It appears however that this message never reached the Antrim squad’s dressing room as they proceeded to deliver such a knockout blow that consigned The Red Hand County to one of their heaviest defeats in some years and put a major dent in their chances of further progression this year.
Against Cavan, Antrim had wilted in the first few minutes but this time, the normally slow to start Saffs came out of the blocks like Usain Bolt, sending Tyrone reeling into an unanswered two goals and 3 points deficit after ten minutes. The home side didn’t know how to cope with the pace and handling of the Antrim forward line as time after time, the ball was returned towards their goal line.
The long awaited return of Maria Hanna into the heart of the Antrim defence seemed to give the entire team confidence as numerous attacks emanated from her secure handling. As imperious as ever, Lara Dahunsi bossed the midfield feeding Orla Corr, Aveen Enright and Aldergrove’s Taggart twins, allowing them to run at their leisure as they plagued Tyrone’s defensive line.
St Brigid’s Maeve Blaney, fresh from her Ulster All Star success hoovered up every loose ball that came her way and her phenomenal speed tore holes in the Tyrone midfield as the O’Neill County girls fought to contain the yellow peril. Sitting behind her, Eimear Matthews in an unusual role for her as a full back used every ounce of her formidable engine to break up anything that Tyrone had to offer offensively.
By half time, Antrim had a commanding 5-6 v 2-5 lead and were almost disappointed that the break would spoil their momentum.
In last year’s Antrim v Tyrone 16s fixture at Musgrave, the Saffs threw away a 9 point lead at the start of the second period, only pinching victory in the last few minutes of the game and this time, management in the dressing room reminded them of how potent this Tyrone squad could be when their backs are to the wall. There was however to be no repeat of that comeback as the Antrim girls continued where they had left off, never letting their guard down for a moment.
Tyrone heads dropped further as the inevitable round of substitutions started, with appearances from Naomh Brid’s Emma Ferran and Rebecca Doyle only serving to heap misery on the home side. The game was over as a competition and the Antrim girls rounded off a memorable victory in some style, conceding only two points to Tyrone in the second phase and delivering an emphatic 2-7 v 6-15 final score.
Next up, Antrim close out their first round of championship matches at home to Donegal on April 7th having realistically played their way into semi final contention. It should be a cracker!.