By Damian Dolan and Cathal Harkin
St Anthony’s will be out to keep their summer of success going in Birmingham on Saturday, when they look to add the provincial club junior trophy to their already impressive haul this year.
Fresh from making it a London junior league and championship double, with victory over Dulwich Harps in the sides’ recent league final meeting in Greenford, the Reading side go into their All-Britain final with Manchester’s Oisín at Pairc na hEireann (1pm) in confident mood.
It’s the first time Anthony’s have done the junior double since 2011 – the club’s first year of competition. The Reading side beat Clonboy in the final at Ruislip by 3-2 to 1-5.
Captain Clara Caravan is the sole survivor from that 2011 junior title winning team. But back then, London’s junior champions didn’t enter into the provincial championship.
Saturday will therefore be St Anthony’s first All-Britain final appearance.
Indeed, the club’s Prelim Round win over Newcastle’s Tir Na Og (by 3-8 to 4-3) in July in Killingworth, Newcastle upon Tyne, was the club’s first-ever fixture in the competition.
It was an impressive victory, given the Yorkshire club reached last year’s All-Britain junior final.
That saw Anthony’s advance to the provincial semi-finals, where they were given a walkover by Scotland’s Dalraida, but the team’s league final with Dulwich will stand to them against the Lancashire champions.
The Reading side certainly didn’t have it all their own way, though, despite opening up a 2-1 to no score lead after just seven minutes.
Harps battled back to get within just three early in the second half, only for Anthony’s to reassert themselves in the final 20 minutes. Anthony’s chief scorers were Edel McManus (0-3, 1f), Aoife Healy (1-1), Nicole McGowan (1-0) and Alison Gaynor (0-2).
Anthony’s had earlier clinched their second-ever London junior title with a 6-7 to 3-6 win over Dulwich in June at McGovern Park.
Edel McManus (3-5, 1-3f) and London county player Aoife Greene (2-2) doing the bulk of the scoring damage.
A provincial title would cap a fantastic year for Anthony’s, especially for departing manager Richie Landy, who is heading home to Cork after six years at the helm.
But in their path stands an Oisín side also enjoying an outstanding year, and going for a third All-Britain junior title.
The most recent of those came in 2015 when they beat Glasgow Gaels in the final by 0-14 to 0-10. They won their first in 2008.
After competing at intermediate level for the last number of years, they have dropped down to junior level this year after losing a number of key individuals.
In June, Oisín defeated St Lawrence’s after extra-time by 3-14 to 4-5 to complete the first half of their own ‘double’.
They then came out on top of a three-team Lancashire championship involving Wolfe Tones and St. Lawrences, having beaten the latter in a final replay at Old Bedian’s.
They were nearly defeated in the original game, but dug deep with the introduction of Aoibheann Daly proving pivotal. Oisín powered home in the replay on a scoreline of 3-12 to 1-3.
While Anthony’s got a walkover in the semi-finals, Oisín beat Glo-Herts county champions Crawley & Brighton Gaels at Pairc na hEirennn.
Crawley had already despatched Warwickshire’s John Mitchel’s by 7-12 to 2-8 in the sides’ JFC Club Preliminary Round fixture at Ruislip, so were never going to be pushovers.
But after a tight first half in Birmingham, the Manchester girls produced a “slick and mature” second half display to win by 2-14 to 1-5.
Sarah Fahy and Emma Walsh hit the goals, while Ciara McCusker and Emer Griffin excelled.
Oisín will look to the likes of Clodagh Gormley, Fluer Durham and Siobhan Polly (in her sixth year with the club) to steer them home at the weekend.
Gormley is a very strong runner with ball at hand, Durham adds power around midfield and Polly will bring accuracy in the forward line.