Friday 15 December 2017

Ciara is real McCoy with champion display to inspire Saffrons


CIARA McCOY handled the pressure of a big occasion just like her famous first cousin Tony McCoy and produced a five-star goalkeeping performance to inspire Antrim to their second title at this level.

If the champion jockey had been at Croke Park yesterday, he would have been delighted to witness the Moneyglass native pull off three stunning saves which played a massive part in her side's victory over a misfiring Louth side.

In the first half, 23-year-old McCoy superbly thwarted Lisa Kelly, and in the second half underlined her class with two excellent stops in quick succession from Rosanne Heaney.

"If there's a better goalkeeper in Ireland than Ciara McCoy then I don't know who she is," enthused Antrim manager Brian Coyle.

"If they (Louth) had got even one goal, they would have been so well lifted, so Ciara keeping a clean sheet for us was very important."

Louth manager John Hanratty agreed, saying: "If I was giving the player of the match to anybody, I'd give it to the Antrim goalkeeper. She made three terrific saves."

But as well as encountering the brilliance of McCoy, the Louth forwards shot themselves in the foot by blazing wide on 13 occasions, compared to just two by Antrim, who in July had crashed to a 3-15 to 1-12 defeat by the Wee County in the second round of the championship campaign.

Centre-forward Kirsty McGuinness bagged two goals for the Saffrons, who led 2-3 to 0-2 at half-time despite playing against a strong breeze blowing from the Hill 16 end.

McGuinness, a Northern Ireland soccer international, raised her first green flag from a 15th-minute penalty awarded when Louth goalkeeper Una Pearson pulled down Anna Finnegan -- who scored Antrim's second goal just three minutes later -- and was promptly yellow-carded and sin-binned for 10 minutes.

And McGuinness was on target once more just before the end when her high shot deceived Pearson.

"We had a good talk with the girls at half-time, but our passing, and our taking of options in the second half continued to be very poor, and Antrim always had a gap of six, seven or eight points," said a disappointed Hanratty.

SCORERS -- Antrim: K McGuinness 2-0 (1-0 pen), A Finnegan 1-1, C Timoney 0-4 (3f), M McCurdy 0-2, C Mullan, M Cooper 0-1 each. Louth: M O'Connell, G Lynch, S Lynch, A-M Murphy (f), K Flood, J McGuinness, S Byrne 0-1 each.

ANTRIM -- C McCoy; B Scullion, E Kelly, S Haughey; C McHugh, N Kelly, A Tubridy; C Mullan, G McGinley; C Carey, K McGuinness, C Timoney; A McAtamney, A Finnegan, M Cooper. Subs: M McCurdy for McAtamney (h-t), N Cooper for Scullion (50), D McAteer for McHugh (56), R Fulton for Finnegan (57).

LOUTH -- U Pearson; A-M Lynch, A Carney, A McGee; M McMahon, M O'Connell, P Marmion; G Lynch, S Lynch; L Kelly, A-M Murphy, C O'Connor; R Heaney, K Flood, J McGuinness. Subs: K Cunningham for Pearson (15 sin-bin), J McGuinness withdrawn due to sin-bin, Pearson for Cunningham (25), McGuinness resumed game (25), V McGlynn for Marmion (h-t), S Byrne for Flood (41), E Conlon for McGuinness (54).

REF -- S Regan (Roscommon).

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