A STUNNING team performance driven by the pain of coming up short in past finals was the catalyst for Antrim's comprehensive win.

That was the view of manager Emma Kelly who has now won All-Ireland Junior medals as a manager as-well-as a player.

Two weeks on from a draw at Croke Park, Antrim were in much meaner form, taking the majority of their chances and stepping on the gas after the break to pull clear.

The win means a move up to the Intermediate Championship next year, while Antrim will also be targeting league promotion in order to push the game to another level in the county.

"I think the hurt - even of two weeks ago when they felt like they had lost - gave the want and will to push on," said Kelly.

"You want to get out of Division Four and play the better teams, same as Intermediate, and it helps you get stronger and develop. You don't want to be a yo-yo team - you want to step up, complete and get better.

"As I said after then last day, we were going home to do shooting and we did that. It paid off, but it's just great too see the crowd there loving it and hopefully will inspire more to come up."

Two early goals set the tone and were the difference at the break, with both very avoidable from a Fermanagh perspective.

Goalkeeper Róisín Gleeson lost Lara Dahunsi's shot in the sun although the ball had been given away cheaply in the build-up, while a rather debatable penalty was awarded straight after that had Fermanagh manager James Daly scratching his head.

"I had my own people watching it live," he insisted.

"I messaged them at half-time and they said it was no penalty. I asked the referee. She couldn’t tell me. She wouldn’t tell me actually. 

"We thought it was a free out because Eimear Keenan was fouled but the next thing she (the referee) is standing on the 14 metre line with her arms out. We were shocked.

"We could be harsh on the goal. Ok, it was a poor goal but when you are looking straight into the sun, you don’t really know what is going to happen.

"We went in at half time five points down and that was basically the two goals. We always felt we were in the game but we needed more. We needed to look after the ball more, and we didn’t."

Saoirse Tennyson challenges Cadhla Bogue

Saoirse Tennyson challenges Cadhla Bogue

Antrim's win was about more than just those two moments as they were consistently better right throughout the team with a much greater spread of scorers.

In the drawn game, Bláithín Bogue tormented the Antrim defence, but was not allowed to do the same with Eimear Smyth's influence reduced after half-time following a great first period.

Kelly was delighted with how her team rose to the challenge and especially for those who have suffered defeats in the finals of 2016 and 2021.

"The forwards: we said to them the defence will be fine if you work hard enough and don't let them run through the middle willy nilly," she insisted.

"Caitlín Taggart and Bronagh Devlin were immense - their work-rate up and down of Lara Dahunsi, Aine Tubridy, Sarah O'Neill, Saoise (Tennyson)...  You couldn't pick just one as they were all immense. 

"Niamh McIntosh was class on Eimear Smyth. Niamh is our man-marker and never gets the praise. 'Tosh' is just one of those quiet girls who gets on with it and drives you on.

"With six minutes to go, Kyla (Trainor) was saying to get the subs on but I was saying no as goals can come fast in ladies football and with Eimear Smyth and Bláithín Bogue, you just don't know.

"When we got another few scores on the board, we knew there was no way back for them but it's great for the likes of Cathy (Carey) and 'Tubs' (Aine Tubridy) who after the only two who played 10 years ago with me."