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Inspirational Hannon helps McKinley's girls stay on Ulster throne

Loughgiel 3-5 Slaughtneil 2-11

By John Campbell

Slaughtneil seem intent on continuing to re-write the camogie history books.

Having scaled a new peak by winning the All-Ireland title for the first time last year, they took another step towards attaining a further helping of unimagined glory by retaining their Ulster title in a stirring decider at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh.

And, just as was the case last year, Loughgiel proved their victims in an unrelenting contest that ebbed and flowed throughout.

Manager Dominic McKinley was as much relieved as delighted at the finish having watched his team surrender the initiative in the early stages before recovering to gain a foothold in the game and then staving off a Loughgiel renaissance in the second half.

"This is a wonderful group of players," declared McKinley, "When those two early Loughgiel goals went in, I think we as management on the sideline were more uneasy than the players.

"They showed great character to come back and indeed proved just why they are the reigning All-Ireland champions."

"We showed patience and resilience and in the second-half we took our chances. Loughgiel put up a massive challenge to us but thankfully we came out on the right side."

Racquel Murphy's stunning goals in the fifth and 10th minute looked to have projected Loughgiel into a commanding position but even though they enjoyed a 2-2 to 0-1 lead, they were slowly but surely reined in by Slaughtneil, for whom the superb Tina Hannon landed 10 points in all in a spectacular display of finishing from play and frees.

She got five of those points before the break with another from Therese Mellon as Loughgiel's advantage was trimmed.

It was still neck and neck at 2-5 to 0-11 at the end of the third quarter but Loughgiel looked have struck a huge psychological blow when 16-year-old substitute Roisin McCormick touched in their third goal.

But Slaughtneil had saved the best wine to the end. In the 54th minute the outstanding Louise Dougan, who worked tirelessly throughout at midfield, drilled home a great goal from a penalty and if this brought the team's faithful to their feet, then they positively raised the roof when Therese Mellon flicked in a third goal in the 56th minute - the score which ultimately confirmed Slaughtneil's extended tenure on the Ulster throne.

It's onwards and upwards for the Derry side as the glint of even more silverware looms on the horizon.

Slaughtneil: J Bradley; B McAllister, B Ni Chaiside, D McGuigan; G O'Kane, A Ni Chaiside, C McGrath; D McGuigan, L Dougan 1-0; E Ni Chaiside, T Hannon 0-10 (4f), S McKaigue; T Mellon 1-1, J McMullan, S Mellon. Subs: S Graham for J McMullan (40), K McEldowney for McKaigue (52).

Loughgiel: M Coyle; A Connolly, L Connolly, C Boyle; F McVeigh, E McFadden, M Connolly; C Laverty, A Boyle; C Dobbin, C Higgins, L McNaughton; A McFadden, R Murphy 2-5 (4f), E McMullan. Subs: R McCormick 1-0 for Higgins (40), U McNaughton for McMullan (42).

Referee: Philip McDonald (Cavan)

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