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Saffs pipped at the back post as Louth take the points

21st January 2024


Antrim Ladies' first venture into Division Three ended in disappointment as a late Louth rally stole the points at the very end, but Emma Kelly’s side will take the positives from an encounter that saw the Saffron girls in control for much of the 60 minutes.

Both teams struggled to cope with the high winds in the opening stages of the encounter as a number of shots fell short or went askew of the uprights. Niamh Rice eventually opened the scoring for the Wee County with a point from play after 6 minutes, and Kate Flood doubled the Louth lead minutes later with a long free on the right.

Aoife Taggart opened the Saffs' scoring

Despite playing with the wind at their backs, Louth failed to capitalise. It wasn’t the weather that kept them at bay, but Sarsfield’s star Duana Coleman, who put in an All-Star-worthy shift in the full-back line.

Louth played with only two players in the Antrim half, forcing the Saffron girls to shoot from long distance. With the Antrim wide count stacking up, fine fielding from Ana Mulholland in the middle kept the pressure on Louth. The sides seemed deadlocked for more than 10 minutes until the Taggart twins, Aoife and Caitlin, both slotted over frees to level the game.

Antrim took the lead when Blathín Ní Cathail broke through the Louth defence, blasting the ball into Rebecca Lambe Fegan’s goal, but almost immediately Flood responded for the visitors with a free to leave Louth trailing 1-2 to 0-3 at the break.

Lara Dahunsi showed that explosive power she has become renowned for straight out of the blocks in the second half to stretch the Antrim lead, and Aoife Taggart doubled her tally with another free. St Brigid’s Theresa Mellon also got in on the action with a long-range effort to put the home team further ahead, but Louth quickly responded with a fisted point of their own and another free from Kate Flood to keep the visitors in the chase.

Dahunsi fired over from far out on the right, and it looked like the points were staying in Belfast, but it was to prove to be Antrim’s final score of the game.

Former Fermanagh ‘keeper Shauna Murphy, making her debut for her adopted county, made a fine save denying Flood, but moments later, new Antrim captain Ciara Brown saw yellow for what many in the ground would have judged a soft free.

Shauna "Smurph" Murphy made her Antrim debut between the sticks today

Despite playing into the wind, Louth made good use of their numerical advantage and piled the pressure on. An accidental injury delayed play for a few minutes, but Louth kept their momentum and fired two points over to put them in front. With the game now well into injury time, Antrim threatened a resurgence, but basic handling errors were quickly intercepted by Louth, and they were quick to punish, with substitute Ciara Woods punching past Murphy to put a shine on the Louth scoreline. The game finished Antrim 1-6 to Louth 1-10.

Many commentators in the lead-up to today’s game thought that Emma Kelly’s side might have struggled with life in Division Three, particularly with the loss of the Moneyglass contingent, but the debutants in Saffron today really stepped up and showed they can mix it up with Division 3 regulars. Mainly making appearances last season as substitutes, Blaithín Ní Cathail and Carla McKenna really put it up to Louth today, and as already mentioned, Duana Coleman was outstanding. Ciara Brown put in a good shift as captain and was unlucky to see yellow.

Emma Kelly was positive after the game, saying, “The game was there to be won; basic errors probably cost us, but on the whole, it was a good performance.” She leads her charges to South Leinster next week, where opponents Offaly registered a draw against Sligo this afternoon.

Duana Coleman put in an impressive shift in the fullback line

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