Antrim ladies get league preparations underway with Queens friendly

Queens University ladies 4-15 Antrim ladies 1-01

                                                                        P.R.O. Kevin Herron


   Antrim ladies started their preparations for their up and coming National league campaign with a friendly against a strong Queens University team at Harlequins Deramore Park on Wednsday evening. Queens who have a championship meeting on the horizon with O’Connor cup champions UCC fielded a strong side, while counterparts Antrim where playing their first game since being crowned All-Ireland junior champions against Louth at Croke Park last October. With Antrim’s first National league division four fixture against Carlow less than four weeks away; manager Brian Coyle named an experimental team, with a number of players unavailable it was a chance for players to stake a claim for a place in the starting 15.

   On a wet and windy evening at Deramore Park both sides struggled to find their feet in the opening minutes with a number of wide’s. Although with just over five minutes gone the first score of the game arrived; and it went to the students Queens when Westmeath star Ruth Kearney picked up possession on the right and curled the ball over the bar to put South Belfast side a point in front. The Antrim defence had to work hard to limit the Queens attack in the first ten minutes, and it worked well despite the mounting pressure from the student’s attack which included Antrim player Mairead Cooper. Queens’s attack soon found the rhythm and added three scores in a matter of minutes; a double from Tyrones’s Niamh Kernan was followed up by a Sinead McCleary point, as Queens began to take control.

   Just after the mid-way point in the half Ruth Kearney registered the first goal of the game with a superb effort that sailed over Ciara McCoy and into the net. Points from Aine Canavan and Caitlin Malone soon followed, as Queens showed how clinical they really were. Just before half time Antrim were hit with another blow; Ruth Kearney once more picked up the ball in a dangerous position and found the net to give Queens a 2-06-0-00 lead. A point from Teri McCusker finished Queens scoring for the first half, but the Saffron’s threatened towards the end of the first period. Antrim’s All-Ireland hero Kirsty McGuiness began to drive her team forward, and was very much involved in a couple of late attacks. First Cuisle Wilson drew a great save from Queens’s goal keeper Katie Daly, before Rebecca Hemsworth struck the crossbar with a fierce effort that bounced to safety as Queens went in 2-07-0-00 to the good.

    Both sides made numerous changes at the break in order to give some players a chance to show what they could do. Antrim started the second period strongly, though unfortunately couldn’t make it show on the scoreboard. Queens opened the scoring in the second period when Teri McCusker got into a good position, and clinically fired the ball over the bar. The student’s continued their good start to the second half with their subsitutes proving effective in firing a further two goals and a point to stretch advantage 4-09 – 0-00.

    Antrim’s attack continued to battle away and they were eventually rewarded with their first score of the game. Mairead Cooper who had lined out for Queens in the first period, lined out for Antrim in the second, and when presented with a free Cooper made no mistake firing between the posts for the Saffrons first of the game. Queens continued to add to their lead with three points from Sinead McCleary amongst others; it was soon 4-14 – 0-01.

   With the game coming to a conclusion Antrim were rewarded for their endeavour with a goal. The Queen’s defence failed to adequately deal with a through ball, and when goal keeper Katie Daly came out to attempt to clear her lines Aoife McAteer was ready and waiting to pounce and sent the ball to the net to the clear delight of the Antrim management. Queens ended the game in the ascendency and added two further points, before referee Eddie Fitzsimmons blew the final whistle.

   Both sides benefited hugely on the night with Queens taking a morale boosting victory away, and they will hope they can continue in this vein when they take on UCC in the O’Connor cup in early February. While Antrim manager Brian Coyle will be happy that his players got to some game time under their belts, as they continue their preparations for the start of the division four national league campaign on the 10th of February. The Antrim ladies continue their campaign with a friendly against Jordanstown on Monday evening.