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Down Camogs Ignite Their Season
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(The 2011 CAMOGIE ALL-IRELAND PREMIER JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP IN ASSOCIATION WITH RTE SPORT)

Down 9-15 (42)  Dublin 1-11 (14)

By Angela Mulhern

Two goals and fifteen points last day out and a massive nine goals and fifteen points this time around (63 points) show that this Down team now mean business.

In the beautiful surroundings of St Malachy’s Park, Castlewellan, with the Mourne Mountains serving as a fitting backdrop, this was a must win game for the Down team.  A win would put them into the All-Ireland Semi-Final and a defeat would dump them out of the competition.

The Down Senior Camogie team that played Dublin in Castlewellan.

Dublin came with nothing to lose or gain and started off at pace sensing the nerves in the Down camp.  After only 4 minutes Dublin were awarded a free which was easily converted by Emer Maher.  Down took this as a wake up call and Lisa McPolin levelled for the home side after 6 minutes.  Sara Louise Carr on 10 minutes and Catherine McGourty a minute later settled Down nerves but a further defensive error led to another Dublin free from the stick of Emer Maher.

Natural order was restored when Sara Louise Carr rifled the ball to the net and Down started to show the class demonstrated against Kildare.  Lisa McPolin added to the score with a well taken point after 15 minutes and Catherine McGourty followed quickly afterwards with a tremendous solo run and well taken goal.  It was then Niamh Mallon’s time to spring to life with a goal of her own after 22 minutes but Dublin stuck to their task and were rewarded with a goal from number 13,  Aoife Bulger. Down dug in after that and in the space of 3 minutes they put 4 points on the board from Sara Louise Carr, Catherine McGourty, Lisa McCrickard and Niamh Mallon.

Down Captain, Lisa McCrickard, seems to be enjoying her new position and demonstrated it with a well taken goal after 27 minutes while Niamh Mallon ended the scoring for Down for the half with a well taken score on the run.  Dublin never gave up trying to their credit and Carol Anne Canning boosted confidence with two successive points in a row to leave the half time score Down 4-9 (21) Dublin 1-5 (8).

After the crowd were treated to exhibition matches from the County’s Castlewellan, Mayobridge and Newry Shamrocks U10 Camogs, the second half started pretty much the way the first half ended.  While Dublin’s Emer Maher scored two points without reply the Down forward line simply upped a gear and Catherine McGourty, Laura Hughes, Niamh Mallon and Sara Louise Carr ensured that the game was over as a contest.

Sarah Louise Carr taking on Dublin.

Anne Canning added a point for Dublin as did Emer Maher but again Down were on fire upfront and the goal fest commenced.  Sara Louise Carr started the onslaught on 17 minutes followed by 2 from Niamh Mallon and Fionnuala Carr repeated her Kildare score on 57 minutes when she again rattled the ball to the net from a penalty following a foul on Nicola Branniff.

Nicola Branniff got her name on the scoreboard when she ended Down’s tally with a splendid opportunist goal.  She had previously started the game in the Down goals and had brought off several fine saves but seemed more at home in her more familiar corner forward position.  Dublin did have 4 points to their credit from the impressive Maher but in truth this game was over as a contest at half-time.

Down, after a shaky start against Waterford, have now progressed from their group as runners up and face Meath in the Semi-Finals of the All Ireland on Saturday 20th August – venue to be confirmed.

At a first glance it might be hard to see what Down will take from this game but it must be said that their forward line was clinical in its finishing.  They worked tremendously hard and pressurised the Dublin team into submission.  Niamh Mallon was again at her best and Catherine McGourty and Sara Louise Carr brought a strength and power to the forward line that will stand them in good stead in the latter stages of the competition.

Laura Hughes continues to thrive with every game and is certainly a talent while Lisa McPolin and Captain, Lisa McCrickard, cement a unit which surely must now be one of the best around.  McCrickard’s unselfish distribution led to many scoring opportunities for her colleagues and a repeat performance by this forward line in the semi-final will give Down a great chance of victory.

Down's Karen Tinnelly and Lisa McPolin in action against Dublin.

In a game such as this it is hard to judge performances but the Down midfield did drift in an out of the game.  Fionnuala Carr and Paula Gribben were impressive when they had to be but they were never really tested and as Down scores mounted their apathy became evident.  Too often Dublin were allowed to roam free with scores of their own and a lack of concentration in the next round will be punished by a more accomplished outfit.

The Down defence did what they had to do but will face sterner competition in the next game.  Nicola Branniff did well in goals while Fiona O’Neill made a very competent contribution to the team.  Karen Tinnelly was quiet in the first half by her own high standards but showed what a class act she is with a magnificent second half performance. Ciara McGovern was very strong in the Down full-back line while Karen McMullan, Kelly O’Higgins and Orla Maginn all showed well when they had to.

Down now have given themselves every chance to at least make it to Croke Park.  A repeat performance by their forward line and an increased work rate and pressure from the midfield and defence will give them every chance.

Down: Nicola Branniff (1-0), Fiona O’Neill, Ciara McGovern, Karen Tinnelly, Kelly O’Higgins, Karen McMullan, Fionnuala Carr (1-0), Paula Gribben, Karen Gribben, Lisa McCrickard (1-1), Lisa McPolin (0-2), Sara Louise Carr (2-3), Catherine McGourty (1-3) Niamh Mallon (3-4), Laura Hughes (0-1) Subs:

The Under-14 Camogie team who played Dublin.

Naoimi Morgan, Orla Maginn, Ciara Magee, Robyn O’Prey, Aoibheann O’Neill (0-1)  Management: Paddy Branniff, Emma Keith, Brian Canavan

DOWN U-14’s On Parade

Early spectators to the Down Senior game were treated to two friendly games, Dublin and Down U14 A and B teams, both of which were won by Dublin. Under the stewardship of the All-Ireland U16 Champion’s management of Noreen Keown, Ann Rogers, Roisin Rogers, Sean Rogers and Francie McGrath*, some 43 Down Camogs took part following trials which involved 115 players in total.  There was some excellent players and passages of play on display which augurs well for the future of Down Camogie.

* Down Camogie wishes Francie McGrath a speedy recovery from recent ill-health.