Saturday 24 June 2017 04:34:44 AM

Down Ladies Win Place In Ulster Final After Victory Over Fermanagh
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Down Ladies Ulster Championship

Down 1-13 Fermanagh 2-07

Down Ladies secured their 2nd Ulster Final appearance in two years with a convincing win over current Ulster Champions Fermanagh in a thrilling encounter writes Barry McConville.

The two teams know each other very well having played out an Ulster final last year and more recently clashed in Division 2 of the Tesco Home Grown NFL.

Megan Doherty played her part in the Down victory over Fermanagh.

Megan Doherty played her part in the Down victory over Fermanagh.

The game started at a blistering pace, and continued at that pace until the final whistle. Down opened the scoring in the early stages with a Lisa Morgan point from play which was soon followed by a Fermanagh score from Martina McDonald, with Morgan slotting over another two and Sinead McNamee taking a fine point from play.

Fermanagh found the pace of Mairead Grant and Jordan Magee hard to deal with and with seasoned campaigner Grainne Kelly overseeing the forward line, Fermanagh faced a formidable task. However Down did miss three goal chances in the first half which could have been costly in the long run. With a very strong bench to pick from, Down were able to make some changes with Kyla Trainor coming on for Mairead Grant and Aileen Pyres on for Clara Mulvenna.

When a penalty was awarded against Down late in the first half, it was clinically dispatched by Fermanagh’s Caroline Little and the Erne girls took a boost from the score, and continued on the offensive, putting the Down backs under pressure.

However, it was a false dawn for Fermanagh. Down are not prone to panic attacks, and they took the set back in their stride. Down replied with a point from play, from Aileen Pyres, and continued to chip away with points from play from Kyla Trainor and Lisa Morgan. Down went in at the half down by 2 points but still very much in the game.

It was clear from early on that this Fermanagh side were only a shadow of the team that turned out in the league against Down, and the Mourne girls were undoubtedly caught out by the physicality of the game and it contributed to Down’s missed chances in first half. However both sides have key players who rise to the big games. Down’s dual player Karen McMullen was instrumental in midfield building Down’s attacking play, while for Fermanagh’s Caroline Little was having a great championship game making a lot of Fermanagh play.

Karen McMullen in action for Down Ladies against Fermanagh.

Karen McMullen in action for Down Ladies against Fermanagh.

Credit must go also to the referee Yvonne Duffy, whose professional approach to the game allowed the football to flow. Duffy made use of her umpires and linespersons on a number of occasions consulting with them on difficult decisions and making use of them nipping off the ball tussles in the bud before they manifested into anything serious.

Down opened the scoring in the second half with a Clara Fitzpatrick point from distance in the opening minutes. This was followed by further pointed scores from Morgan, Fitzpatrick, Pyres and Eimear Kane. Fitzpatrick got a terrific goal after cutting through the Erne defence and made no mistake of rattling the back of the net.

The Down backs held their line and when Katie Farrell came out to close down the space on a Fermanagh attack, the ball rebounded across the goal mouth and Fermanagh looked like they might get another goal, but only to find Eliza Downey covering the space. Downey made a terrific clearance on the line, much to the dismay of the Erne forwards and Down broke the Fermanagh attack and proceeded to go on the offensive.

Down deservedly won a game they dominated and can now look towards an Ulster Final at Clones in July but Fermanagh were a formidable opponent, and although the Mourne girls kept a 3 point cushion in the closing stages, Fermanagh always looked dangerous on the ball. The Erne girls just kept coming at Down and credit to both teams for serving up a fantastic game of football.

Down Squad: Katie Farrell, Cora McKibben, Orla Boyle, Cara Cunningham, Grainne Hughes, Niamh McGowan (joint captain), Sinead Fegan, Meghan Doherty, Clara Fitzpatrick, Sinead McNamee, Lisa Morgan, Clara Mulvenna, Mairead Grant, Jordan Magee, Grainne Kelly. Emma McPolin, Eimear Kane
Lauren Cunningham, Jess Foy, Hannah Magorrian, Kyla Trainor (joint captain), Aileen Pyers, Clare O’Neill, Karen McMullan, Grainne McLean, Eliza Downey, Erin Robinson, Laura McNamee, Emma McPolin, Hannah Murray, Orla Fegan, Emily Martin, Nicole Mulholland, Sinead Brannigan, Manager Mark Copeland, Coaches Ryan McShane, Diane O’Hora, Locky Leneghan, Selector Kevin Leneghan, Physio Niamh Canavan.