Last Monday saw the U-14 County final between Ballycastle and Dunloy. The game took place in a windy Loughgiel but the pitch was in great condition.
This was always going to be a very competitive game as both these teams had met recently in the County Feile Semi-final, Dunloy coming out on top at that time and showing an eagerness from early on in this championship final to keep the momentum going, however Ballycastle showed the same hunger from the throw in and looked to have something to prove.
Throughout this game the midfield area was particularly where the individual battles took place, leaving both the defensive and forward lines for both teams not taking their eye off the ball for even a second. Early on it was clear that Dunloy`s Mary McToal was always going to be a force to be reckoned with and Ballycastle`s Brona McKeague would have to be at her best to contain her. Cliodhna Donnelly was determined to do the same in the middle of the pitch for Ballycastle.
Dunloy were awarded a free 7 minutes into the game which Mary McToal stepped up to take which saw the sliother fall just outside the Ballycastle square, after a scramble in front of goal the ball went wide. Ballycastle won the puck out and went on the attack with a brilliant solo run by Caoimhe Wright who put the ball outside the Dunloy square. At this point Ballycastle were awarded a free, which Caoimhe Wright took herself splitting the posts. This was the first score of the match 10 minutes into the game but it only took this time due to the sheer determination of both teams defences.
Dunloy went on the attack immediately bringing the ball well into the Ballycastle half severely testing the Ballycastle defence before Cliodhna Donnelly intercepted a well worked pass from Dunloy`s Dervla McGill. Eimear O`Neil struck the ball well to clear and forward Aine Donnelly ran at the Dunloy goal striking very confidently and cleanly to put the sliotar in the corner of the Dunloy net. The Dunloy goalkeeper, Saoirse McAuley could not have done anything to prevent it.
Ballycastle needed to stay focused however as Dunloy came straight at them on the attack with Lisa McGuickan seeing her attempt go wide. As the tackle took place from the puck out Dunloy were awarded a free from the 40 yard line. Again Mary McToal placed the ball just short of the Ballycastle square, Chloe Boyd got on to the end of it but her shot was blocked down by Orla Donnelly, Dunloy were awarded a 45. Again the ball was dropped into the square which Ballycastle cleared but only as far as Dunloy`s Dervla McGill who went on a superb solo run only to be stopped by Niamh McVeigh.
Again the midfield battles ensued with Dunloy`s Fiona Hills fighting for every ball. Dunloy were awarded another free but it was blocked down by Ballycastle’s Catherine McShane. The ball was then well won by Laura O`Kane who put Dunloy on the score board with a very well taken point. Dunloy were determined to register more scores with Dervla Magill and Clodagh Martin pairing up well to try to break the Ballycastle defence but equally the defence of Caolainn O`Hara and Clodagh Boylan paired well to the keep the ball out of danger for Ballycastle.
Mary McToal took another 45 for Dunloy and this time sent it confidently over the bar. Both teams were ready again for a midfield battle when the half time whistle sounded. Half time score Dunloy 0-2, Ballycastle 1-01.
What would turn out to be an exciting and nerve wrecking second half for both teams supporters got underway with Ballycastle winning the throw in, Aine Donnelly went on a solo run to score an excellent point one minute in. Mary McToal was again instrumental in midfield for Dunloy trying to set up Louanne Smyth but Ballycastle`s Brona McKeague was able to clear. Orla O`Neil took a free for Dunloy against a strong breeze, Clodagh Martin and Chloe Reid put pressure again on Ballycastle close to the square. A close Dunloy free went just left of the posts.
The determination and competitiveness of this game could not be over exaggerated. Caoimhe Wright and Aine Donnelly were constant threats for Ballycastle as were Mary McToal and Dervla Magill for Dunloy. To be fair both goalkeepers played their part in clearing the goalmouths but had little full on saves to do which shows the strength and depth of both defenses. Caoimhe Wright kept pressure from the wing with Olivia Watt, Shaneen Watkins and Maria Bakewell finding it very tough to convert against a steadfast Dunloy defence. Neither team was giving an inch and it looked like any scores would have to come from points. With 10 minutes to go the first and only yellow card of the game was given and Dunloy were awarded a free from 25 yards out which was easily converted to leave the score at this point Dunloy 0-3, Ballycastle 1-02.
Dunloy tried some teamwork with Mary McToal handpassing to Louanne Smyth who in turn attempted to pass to Caiomhe Conlon but was intercepted by Orla Donnelly who cleared but after another scramble to win the ball, Dunloy were awarded a free which they pointed from leaving the sides level. The game got even more intense, the puck out was won by Coaimhe Wright, both teams really going for it now with Mary McToal also winning the ball and going for a solo run before Ballycastle were awarded a free, taken by Cliodhna Donnelly with sister Aine Donnelly winning the ball and pointing, Ballycastle ahead again by one point with only one minute remaining.
This time Dunloy`s Chloe Boyd won the puck out before Ballycastle`s Catherine McShane pulled the sliotar on the ground sending it into the path of Coaimhe Wright who took full advantage with another point.
Dunloy`s Aimee Forde, Rachael Magee and Katie Kelly who had fought hard throughout were still searching and fighting for that much needed goal but Niamh McVeigh for Ballycastle made a great solo run getting the sliotar into the Dunloy square, the Dunloy defence continued to fight hard. As time was coming to an end Ballycastle were awarded a 45 which Caomihe Wright very calmly put between the posts, this was practically the last action of the game. Final score Dunloy 0-05, Ballycastle 1-05.