Ulster ladies championship
Armagh Harps v St Paul’s
(Sunday, 2pm, tbc)
THE word legend is thrown around far too liberally these days, but the term certainly applies to Armagh Harps goalkeeper Paula Enright.
She turns 41 next week, but she was player of the match in their long-awaited senior championship final victory over Carrickcruppen on Saturday.
Enright played on the last Harps team to claim senior championship honours 1998, so to say it was a lengthy wait would be a massive understatement.
Now they have an Ulster Championship quarter-final against Antrim St Paul’s this weekend, and Enright says this is her final season no matter what happens.
“When I got the player of the match I was laughing because I thought it was a honorary award as I told them I was retiring after we won the final. I’m definitely not coming back next year, how could you top that!”
The Harps have been there or thereabouts in recent years, and lost last year’s final to Clann Eireann. They gained sweet revenge against the Lurgan side in this season’s quarter-final, and they proved it was no fluke when they limited a star-studden Carrickcruppen to only eight points in Saturday’s decider.
Sinead Burke limited Caroline O’Hanlon to only a couple of points – a brilliant achievement considering Caroline scored five goals in a single game earlier in the championship, while Colleen Duffy, Ciara Rafferty, Fionnuala McKenna and Kelly Mallon were also outstanding.
Enright, who pulled off a number of outstanding saves, says that the entire club has rowed in behind them since last year’s run to the final.
“Down through the years, the men in the club wouldn’t have followed us much but getting to that final was a big deal as the club realised ‘hold on here, we have to give these ladies a chance.’
“I have to say the committee and the club have been fantastic and have given us everything we’ve wanted.
“Our managers Paddy (McShane) and Joe (Feeney) have put in Trojan work and left no stone unturned.
“Whenever we were drawn against Clann Eireann in the first-round, everyone knew it was going to be a nail-biting encounter. We had the backing of the supporters having lost the final last year so it was great to make amends for that defeat.”
Enright, who celebrated on the pitch after the game with her kids Katie, Conor and Amy, says the influx of talented younger players has made the big difference for Armagh Harps.
“We’d a really strong minor team who have been transitioning into the senior team. They came in last year and maybe the final was too much for them, but they’ve another year at senior level under their belts and they’re absolutely flying now.”
The LGFA had decided to go ahead with the provincial championships this year, and Armagh Harps are scheduled to play last year’s beaten All-Ireland Intermediate finalists, who have been boosted by the return to fitness of Saoirse Tennyson, who did her cruciate while playing for Antrim midway through 2019.
Speaking on Monday, Enright said: “It’s only today we’ve had time to think about it. We’ve played St Paul’s in a couple of challenge matches in the last few years, we know some of their players but you don’t really know about the fresh blood they’re bringing in, but it’s still good to have another big match to focus on.”
St Macartan’s v Lacken
(Sunday, Augher 1pm)
TYRONE Champions St Macartan’s completed their drive-for-five a fortnight ago with a convincing victory over Errigal Ciaran. They won the 2017 Ulster Championship but will be determined to make up for defeats on the provincial stage in the last few years. Lacken, meanwhile, are having a fantastic season, winning their first Cavan championship in six years. A player to watch out for is Roisin O’Keefe, who scored 11 points in the final victory over Crosserlough.
Verdict: St Macartan’s
Bredagh v Donaghmoyne
(Sunday, tbc, 2pm)
REIGNING Ulster Champions Donaghmoyne have won 18 county championships in-a-row, and they had an even easier time of it than usual in this year’s decider, thrashing a beleagured Emyvale side by 6-21 to 0-1. Bredagh maintained their position at the top of the tree in Down by beating Carryduff in the final for a third year in-a-row, but they’re yet to really make an impact in Ulster. It’ll take one hell of a performance to beat Donaghmoyne, so the smart money is on the Monaghan girls.
Steelstown v Magheracloone
(Saturday, tbc, 2pm)
STEELSTOWN have a short turnaround for this match after claiming the Intermediate title in Derry with a dominant 1-11 to 0-3 victory over Ballymaguigan at the weekend. They have a good mix at the moment between experienced players like Katy Holly, Ciara McGurk and Emma Crudden and a batch of youngsters, and St Mary’s student Ella Rose Sainsbury. Opponents Magheracloone are a club in rude health at the minute. Their minor team is preparing for a postponed final against Scotstown, the u-14s are blazing a trail, and their senior team retained their Intermediate crown with a thrilling 3-16 to 3-10 win over Inniskeen.
Teconnaught v Killybegs
(Saturday, tbc, 2pm)
KILLYBEGS will be in high spirits heading into the Ulster arena as they claimed a thrilling 4-10 to 1-12 victory over Na Dunaibh in the Donegal Junior ‘A’ final, with the final margin of seven points not doing justice to how close the game was. Teconnaught will need to be tight at the back to deal with Susanne White, who scored 2-9, while her sister Tara White is a fine forward as well. Down champions Teconnaught claimed their Junior title with a fantastic comeback victory over Bredagh’s B team, but they’ve had a week less to prepare for this match.
Antrim Camogie Championship
Loughgiel v McQuillan Ballycastle
LOUGHGIEL are one of the strongest teams of Ulster, and you’d be a brave man to bet against them retaining their senior crown in Antrim. They won their semi-final with plenty to spare against Cushendall, and although it was a great all-round team performance, they have some seriously talented individuals in their ranks like Roisin McCormack, Caitrin Dobbin, Amy Boyle and Anna Connolly among a litany of others. Ballycastle, meanwhile, are hoping to make the breakthrough after losing last year’s final to Loughgiel, and they’re backboned by a fine minor team from 2016/17. Young players worth a mention including Riana McBride and Nuala McShane, but it’ll be hard to stop Loughgiel.
Verdict: Loughgiel Shamrocks