Antrim ladies progress to semi-finals
Antrim 3-10-1-10 Louth
By Kevin Herron
Antrim progressed to the Tesco HomeGrown Division Four semi-final after a 3-10-1-10 victory over Louth in Ballymena.
The Saffrons trailed 0-07-0-06 at the break, but a brace from Kirsty McGuiness and a goal from Mairead Cooper ensured that Antrim turned the game around and claimed their place in the last four.
Antrim started brighter in a cold and breezy Ballymena. Aine Tubridy picked out Kirsty McGuiness after two minutes and McGuiness made no mistake firing over. McGuiness almost hit the net two minutes later, but Louth keeper Una Pearson parried against the bar and Hanna Doherty blasted wide with the follow up. Instead Antrim doubled their lead with Claire Timoney driving the ball between the posts to make it 0-02-0-00
Louth opened their account for the afternoon on ten minutes after Kate Flood converted a free. They were level a minute later with Rebecca Carr slotting the ball between the posts to make it two points a piece.
It was hard to separate the sides as scores were exchanged freely. Twice Antrim lead by a point with Mariosa McGourty converting from play and Mairead Cooper converting a free, but Louth replied each time with Susan Byrne and Rebecca Carr grabbing the scores to leave it 0-04-0-04 after 21 minutes.
Louth took the lead for the first time on 23 minutes after Eibhlin Rice converted and three minutes later Rebecca Carr grabbed her third point of the game to double her sides advantage and make it 0-06-0-04. Antrim responded well and were level by the 30th minute. Rachel Fulton picked out Mariosa McGourty with a hand pass and McGourty converted, before McGourty combined with Claire Timoney who levelled.
It looked as though both sides would go in level at the break, but two minutes into injury time Kate Flood pointed from a free to put Louth a point in front at the break 0-07-0-06. Crucially though Louth would begin the second period with 14-players after Lisa Maguire was sin binned.
Playing with an extra player for the first ten minutes of the second period Antrim took advantage and within a minute if the restart took the lead. Mairead Cooper picked out Kirsty McGuiness and McGuiness blasted the ball beyond the reach of Una Pearson to make it 1-06-0-07.
Louth hit back through a converted free from Kate Flood and Antrim were reduced to 14-players for ten minutes after Niamhin Cooper was sin binned for giving the free away. Louth restored their lead on 39 minutes. A long ball was won by Eibhlin Rice who cut in towards goal at the byline and blasted home past Eleanor Mallon to make it 1-06-1-08.
Two minutes later Antrim hit the front again. The ball was threaded through to Mairead Cooper and Cooper round Una Pearson the drove the ball low into the net to make it 2-06-1-08. Antrim took momentum from the goal and chalked up three consecutive scores. Mairead Cooper's block down fell to Kirsty McGuiness and McGuiness fed Mariosa McGourty for a score. Claire Timoney then pointed before Kirsty McGuiness converted to make it 2-09-1-08.
Louth came back into the game and halved the deficit with Rebecca Carr and Emily Norton both capitalising on errors to make it an interesting finale. Antrim found their insurance score with four minutes of regulation time remaining. Mairead Cooper lofted a high ball which looked to be heading wide, but Kirsty McGuiness kept the ball in and turned Una Pearson before blasting low into the net to make it 3-09-1-10. Claire Timoney wrapped up the scoring for the day with a point in the final minute as Antrim ran out winners by six points: 3-10-1-10.
The Saffrons progress to the semi-final on Easter Sunday and they will hope to go a step further than last year and make it to the Tesco HomeGrown Division Four final.
Antrim: E Mallon, N Cooper, E Kelly, J McCavana, S McLoughlin, C Carey, N Kelly, S Graham, A Tubridy, M Cooper, C Timoney, P Matherson, M McGourty, H Doherty, K McGuiness.
Louth: U Pearson, E Murray, M McMahon, A Halligan, E Singleton, G Lynch, A-M Lynch, S McDonald, A Byrne, R Carr, K Flood, S Byrne, L Maguire, G Rogers.