FOOTBALL: “We are disappointed, we thought we threw it away” – Emma Kelly

FOOTBALL: “We are disappointed, we thought we threw it away” – Emma Kelly

By DAIRE WALSH (Antrim manager Emma Kelly. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile)

Antrim manager Emma Kelly knew it was a chance missed as the Saffrons gave away a late four-point lead in the TG4 All-Ireland Junior Championship Final before Orlaith Prenter saved them at the death against Fermanagh.

Antrim were beaten by Wicklow in last year’s decider but held a 1-12 to 0-11 lead with just over ten minutes remaining in Croke Park. However, Eimear Smyth dispatched a penalty and further points from Erin Tierney and Smyth looked to have sealed the win for Fermanagh.

But Prenter scored in the final minute to send the two Ulster counties into a replay for the West County Hotel Cup on Saturday 13 August.

“We are disappointed, we thought we threw it away,” said Kelly.

“It was a game there that we should have had for the taking. First half, I think it was 20 shots and we only converted eight. We should have been well out of sight.

“The girls can do nothing but blame themselves but we live to fight another day. We’ll go back to the drawing board.

“It could have been doors shut, only we got that free at the end. Again, two weeks to go. You shouldn’t have to lift anyone for an All-Ireland final.

“It doesn’t matter what way it ends, you’re still here and you’re raring to go.”

In the first all-Ulster junior final since 2017, Maria O’Neill’s goal was the difference as Antrim took a narrow 1-7 to 0-7 lead into half-time.

The 2020 champions relied heavily on Bláithín Bogue who scored 0-5 from play in the first half while Antrim took the lead when Prenter scored her second point in the tenth minute, and they never looked back.

Gráinne McLaughlin, Prenter and Cathy Carey all added further points while Bogue scored the last five points of the half for Fermanagh.

Antrim were looking to bridge a gap back to 2012 and when Prenter scored back-to-back points they held a 1-12 to 0-11 lead in the 47th minute.

But then Bogue was fouled and Smyth scored a goal from the resultant penalty two minutes later. Substitute Tierney scored a point and Smyth gave Fermanagh a precious 1-13 to 1-12 advantage in the 58th minute.

Nevertheless, Antrim were resolute and they found the equaliser through Prenter, with Fermanagh manager James Daly happy they were able to see another day.

“Whenever they scored the point, looked at the clock and saw there was 30 seconds left,” said Daly.

“Some people were panicking to get the ball up the field. My first thought was, don’t lose the kick-out. Our thought was make sure the kick-out is safe.

“I saw that happen to Fermanagh about ten years ago. Rushed the kick-out, the ball was over the bar and they were put out.

“Didn’t want that to happen but we’re delighted.”

Scorers – Antrim: O Prenter 0-6 (0-4f), M O’Neill 1-1, G McLaughlin 0-3 (1f), C Carey 0-2, A Tubridy 0-1.

Fermanagh: B Bogue 0-7, E Smyth 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), A O’Brien, S Britton, E Tierney 0-1 each.

Antrim: A McCann; D Coleman, A McFarland, N McIntosh; M Mulholland, S Tennyson, S O’Neill; L Dahunsi, Á Tubridy; C Taggart, C Carey, M O’Neill; B Devlin, O Prenter, G McLaughlin.

Subs: O Corr for C Taggart (33), T Mellon for Devlin (34), A Taggart for McLaughlin (40).

Fermanagh: R Gleeson; E Keenan, M McGloin, S McQuade; N McManus, S McCarville, C Bogue; B Bannon, A O’Brien; E Maguire, B Bogue, S Britton; C McElroy, E Smyth, L Grew.

Subs: E Tierney for Maguire (19), E Douglas for McManus (41), Maguire for Grew (55).

Referee: Kevin Corcoran (Mayo).

Fermanagh manager James Daly during the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Junior Championship Final match between Antrim and Fermanagh at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile