Armagh were in seventh heaven on Saturday night after regaining the IIBA Women’s Inter-Zone Championship for the first time since 2011!
They were too slick for current McIlroy Cup holders Donegal, whose title defence evaporated into a whimper at Killyclougher on Saturday.
Most of the damage was inflicted in an impressive first half performance that earned Armagh a 10 shot advantage.
Scenting victory, the Armagh ladies were not going to blow the opportunity of picking up the trophy for the seventh time. The piled on the agony in the second half in which they swept over the finish line with plenty to spare, winning by 16 shots.
“It was a great team performance,” said Armagh zone convener Jal Richardson.
“We got off to a really solid start and that really set the tone. Credit to all the players, they knew what was required against a good Donegal side, who were determined to hold on to their crown. Our players dug in and once we built up a decent lead at the interval, they had what it takes to hold on to it. It’s the zone’s seventh McIlroy Cup win, but the first for me as convener, so I’m thrilled.”
Rachael Cassells and Irene Doone did most of the damage in that one-sided first half.
Cassells built up a 9-0 lead after only four ends against Margaret Montgomery, who managed to score on only three of the 10 ends, picking up a two (on the fifth), a single on the ninth and a two on the final end.
Ann Gilfillen started with a single on the opening end of her clash with Doone, but she too could only manage a two on the fourth and a two on the seventh before crashing to a 14-5 defeat.
Donegal’s Ruth Crawford did manage to recover from a slow start, being 3-0 down after the opening three ends, to go on and record a 12-4 win against Daphne Marshall, to keep her team in with a slim shout.
But there was no let-up in the second half with Irene Douglas leading the charge with a convincing 12-5 victory against Rachael McDonnell. Again, the Donegal skip scored on only four ends.
Armagh’s Lisa Douglas got off to a flyer against Elizabeth Doherty, having built up a 13-1 lead after only five ends. Amazingly, she managed to add only one more shot to her tally as her opponent rallied, only to be beaten 14-12.
Vera Patterson also battled back from a 4-2 deficit against Armagh’s Pauline Beattie. And, even though she racked up a 9-6 success, the victory celebrations were well under way.
“We were beaten by the better team on the day,” said Donegal’s Fred Aicken.
“It was always going to be too big of an ask to recover from the start we made. Fair play to the team, they battled to the end, but it wasn’t enough. Armagh were worthy winners.”
Results: Armagh 64 Donegal 48 (R Cassells 14 M Montgomery 5; D Marshall 4 R Crawford 12; I Doone 14 A Gilfillan 5; P Beattie 6 V Patterson 9; I Douglas 12 R McDonnell 5; L Douglas 14 E Doherty 12).
n Ireland boss Colin Campbell insists the best is yet to come from his young Ireland side that featured in the Under-25 British Isles Home International Series at Bristol over the weekend.
Although, the Irish boys were beaten by England, Scotland and Wales, they can hold their heads high after three battling performances.
“The average of the team is only 19. Most of these lads will be eligible to play at this level for quite a few years. It’s a learning curve for them,” said Campbell.
“They will gain great experience from competing against the stronger nations, who have a multitude of players to choose from.
“If this team can stay together, who knows? We may not be too far off a title in a few years’ time.”
Results: Scotland 87 Ireland 67; England 88 Wales 16; England 79 Ireland 55; Scotland 79 Wales 60; Ireland 57 Wales 74; England 88 Scotland 61.
Finals positions: 1 England; 2 Scotland; 3 Ireland 4 Wales.