By DAIRE WALSH
The outstanding Orlaith Prenter kicked 0-8 against Leitrim at Parnell Park to guide Antrim towards their maiden Lidl NFL Division 4 title.
TG4 All-Ireland Junior Football Championship winners in 2021, Emma Kelly's side finally added an NFL crown to their roll of honours following previous defeats in the 2014, 2016 and 2019 Division 4 deciders.
Leitrim were winners of this competition back in 2010 but despite the best efforts of team captain Michelle Guckian and Ailbhe Clancy, Jonny Garrity’s charges came up short on this occasion.
While Leitrim began brightly with back-to-back points from Clancy and Vivienne Egan, Antrim subsequently came to life in the north Dublin venue. After Lara Dahunsi split the uprights in fine style, Saffrons corner-forward Bronagh Devlin got on the end of a fourth-minute attack and hammered the ball to the back of the net.
Sharpshooter Prenter increased the Antrim advantage with a perfectly executed free, but their buffer was wiped out when Megan McGovern released Guckian for a Leitrim goal on eight minutes.
Evergreen Antrim centre-forward Cathy Carey and her opposite number Guckian proceeded to trade scores either side of the first-quarter mark, before the Ulster women built momentum with three points on the bounce courtesy of the dynamic inside duo of Devlin and Prenter (two).
Prenter and Dahunsi also fired over in response to an Ailbhe Clancy free, before Leah Fox dragged a Leitrim penalty wide of the left-hand post with just two minutes remaining in the opening half.
This ensured Antrim brought a 1-8 to 1-4 cushion into the interval and they increased the gap between the teams with Prenter’s fifth point of the game shortly after the resumption.
St Ergnat’s Moneyglass star Maria O’Neill added her name to the scoresheet as the play progressed, while Carey and the excellent Prenter bolstered their personal hauls with well-taken points.
Yet just when it looked like Antrim were holding all the aces, Leitrim came storming back into contention with a 1-1 salvo from the reliable Clancy.
The prospect of a grandstand finish was suddenly looming large, but Antrim clinically closed out the game by outscoring their opponents 0-7 to 0-1 - O’Neill (three), Prenter (two), Carey and Laura Agnew all finding the target in this juncture.
Scorers - Antrim: O Prenter 0-8 (2f), B Devlin 1-1, M O’Neill 0-4, C Carey 0-3, L Dahunsi 0-2, L Agnew 0-1.
Leitrim: A Clancy 1-3 (0-2f), M Guckian 1-1, M McGovern, V Egan 0-1 each.
ANTRIM: A McCann; D Coleman, E Ferran, N McIntosh; A Keenan, C Brown, S O’Neill; A Mulholland, Á Tubridy; T Mellon, C Carey, L Dahunsi; B Devlin, O Prenter, M O’Neill. Subs: O Corr for Tubridy, G McLaughlin for Mellon (both 39), L Agnew for Devlin (47), C McKenna for S O’Neill (56).
LEITRIM: M Monaghan; J Maye, C Tyrrell, S Reynolds; R Rooney, C Bruen, C Le Guen; M McGovern, N Tighe; L O’Dowd, M Guckian, A Clancy; V Egan, L Fox, E Bruen. Subs: B O’Rourke for Egan (40), A Gilmartin for Tighe, S Quinn for Fox (both 43), R McHugh for Clancy (56), D Stenson for K Bruen (58).
Ref: Justin Murphy (Cork).Tweet