Creggan power to Ulster League title

28 May 2012
In cold, wet conditions last Wednesday evening in Cushendall, two of the top performing sides in this year’s Ulster Premier League Shield competition done battle for the right to call themselves Champions.
The game saw home side Cushendall come up against a Creggan side that are still unbeaten this season and playing with real swagger on the pitch. After a fair delay from the initial 7:15pm throw in, referee Eoin Elliott got proceedings underway some 18 minutes later as the rain steadily drizzled down.
It was a bright start from both sides, with the ball failing to budge from between the two 45m lines for a few minutes and midfielders Claire Kearney and Shannon Graham battling tenaciously for every ball before the Creggan midfielder was upended on the 45m by Cushendall half back Bronagh Laverty.
Graham stood over her own free and calmly stroked the sliotar between the posts to give the visitors the lead and she added a second score three minutes later to extend the Creggan advantage. The cross field winds made life difficult for both sets of girls as the handling wasn’t up to scratch and tackles were flying in by the second on any loose balls.
A strong run from Creggan centre forward Dominique McAteer was judged to have been ended unfairly by Cushendall full back Sarah Maguire and once again Shannon Graham stepped up and slotted over the free to move the Staffordstown ladies into a three point lead with 11 minutes played.
The home side were then dealt a sucker blow when Shannon Graham bombed forward from the middle of the field and drove home a fierce effort past the helpless Noeleen Cosgrove into the back of the net to stamp their authority on the contest.
The home side eventually did get themselves off the mark from the next attack when corner forward Orlagh O’ Hara rounded her marker and pointed well from a difficult angle to lift the home support slightly, as the rain continued to soak any fans or reporters that were silly enough to leave the house without an umbrella!
The Cushendall fight back was short lived though and who else but Shannon Graham was again the thorn in the side, calmly stepping up and firing over two frees in quick succession to establish a seven point lead before centre forward Sinead Cosgrove  clipped over a further point to give Creggan complete control.
Orlagh O’ Hara found the target for the second time for Cushendall after good work from centre back Colleen Patterson but the score was cancelled out by Creggan when full forward Ciara McCollum made space for herself and split the posts from close range. That proved to be the final score of the first half and the score line at the break read: Cushendall 0-03, Creggan 1-06.
The teams came out to a rainbow for the beginning of the second half but there was to be no such luck at the end of it for the home side as Creggan came out all guns blazing and banged over two quick frees from midfielder Shannon Graham, one of them a superb effort from long range. 
The game was effectively over as a contest a few minutes later when Creggan corner forward Kelly Mulholland found herself in space deep in the Cushendall back line and latched onto a long pass from Fiona Maguire before drilling the ball low and hard into the net.
To give credit to the home side, they battled bravely for every ball even though they were facing a mountain to climb to get back into the game, and Orlagh O’ Hara showed her class once more when she collected the ball and went on a direct solo run towards goal before placing the ball low and hard out of Eleanor Mallon’s reach.
That strike was followed by a fine point form the hurl of wing forward Niamh O’ Neill as the Cushendall girls desperately tried to claw themselves back into contention. Their efforts, however, where in vain as another killer blow was landed by the truly outstanding player on the pitch in the 23rd minute, Shannon Graham.
The midfielder took a great first touch before going directly at the goals and thumping a high effort beyond Noeleen Cosgrove to open up a 10 point advantage with little under four minutes remaining on the clock.
Creggan full forward Ciara McCollum was in no mood for mercy though and she tapped over her second point of the evening before once again collecting the ball a minute later and casually rifling in a goal from 21m out of her hand. As like the first half, it was McCollum who ended the scoring and left Creggan running out comfortable winners on a score line of: Cushendall 1-04, Creggan 4-09.

Teams and scorers
Noeleen Cosgrove, Shauna Cosgrove, Maureen McAlister, Sorcha Cosgrove, Tara O’ Neill, Colleen Patterson, Naomi McCorry, Brianna McDonnell, Claire Kearney, Alex McLaughlin ©, Sinead Cosgrove (0-01), Niamh O’ Neill (0-01), Laura McMullan, Helena McAlister, Orlagh O’ Hara (1-02)

Eleanor Mallon, Joan Letters, Sarah Maguire, Eleanor McConville, Bronagh Laverty, Cathy Carey ©, Fiona Maguire, Shannon Graham (2-07), Catriona O’ Boyle, Ruby Marie Rice, Dominique McAteer, Anita McAuley, Kelly Mulholland (1-00), Ciara McCollum (1-02), Catherine Mallon

Match report courtesy of the County Antrim Post.