Antrim and Armagh camogs have high hopes in Croker


Antrim v Kilkenny

Sunday, Croke Park, 2pm

THE Saffrons are looking to make amends for losing last year’s All-Ireland Intermediate final to Down. That season, there were no seconds teams in the competition, but there was still a significant challenge for both teams to reach the final.

This year, the seconds teams have returned, but Antrim have proven themselves to be a match for almost all those sides. Their only defeat came against Cork in the group stages. Antrim beat Kilkenny in group two by 2-13 to 1-12.

The game was close throughout, and Antrim relied upon the brilliance of Maeve Kelly, Nicole O’Neill and minor star Aine Magill to get them over the line. They also had fine performances from Katie McAleese Carey, the former county captain who returned to action after a period of two years. Chloe Drain and Maeve Connolly were also back in action in that game.

The match that singled out Antrim’s quality was their semi-final victory over Galway. That was the game that really tested the resolve of the Saffrons. During the competition, joint manager Paul McKillen had repeatedly mentioned how the Antrim girls tended to lose focus during games. But in the Galway match they stuck to their task throughout, and bar the concession of a late goal, they were full value for the win at the finish.

The free taking was crucial in that game, not least Roisin McCormick’s placed score towards the end. Magill, it should be noted, scored 1-4 of her county’s tally.

Their opponents this weekend are a Kilkenny side who will be a good deal stronger than the outfit that beat them during the group stages. Since that loss, Kilkenny have went on to beat Kildare by 2-24 to 1-7, Cork by 2-7 to 0-9, and they defeated Meath by four in the semi-finals. The player that Antrim will be focused on silencing is Sophie O’Dwyer. She scored nine of their 13 scores in the win over Meath. She had already scored 19 points in total in the three previous games.

Kilkenny will be out to nullify Antrim’s scoring threats, but whether they can do it or not, we will see.

Verdict: Antrim



Armagh v Wexford

Sunday, Croke Park, 12pm

THE Orchard county are out to prove a point in this weekend’s All-Ireland Premier Junior final.

Last year they won the Premier Junior title, beating Cavan in the final. This time around, they want to win by beating a seconds team. The well-worn cliché is that no championship is easy won.

But they are all different, and according to Ciara Donnelly in her interview ahead of the final, the team that played in last year’s competition needed a year to settle before they could take on the seconds teams who bring a different challenge.

On the evidence of their performances, Armagh seem to be a tougher outfit this season. Having won their opener against Waterford, they then shipped defeat to Wexford. But they responded by going into the quarter-finals and putting up a scored of 1-16 to Limerick’s 3-8. The Treaty county’s goal scoring exploits were not enough to keep this good Orchard team down.

Then in the semi-final, Armagh were easy winners against Clare, earning a 2-13 to 1-6 result.

The question mark over their team is, can they beat Wexford? As Donnelly told Gaelic Life, the Model are the team that Armagh just can’t seem to get past.

But rather than focusing on the negatives, the Orchard believe that the positive is that they are getting closer to defeating their nemesis.

Donnelly remains a crucial player for Armagh. She is the score-getter and leader on the team. While she can’t beat Wexford on her own, the feeling is that she has to be on song for them to get their win.

Leanne Donnelly, Ciara’s sister, has been a huge player for the Orchard. Her ability to get goals may be important on Sunday. Ciara Hill is another Armagh player that should step up on the big occasion.

The Wexford team are likely to have Rachel Fitzmaurice playing as a sweeper on Sunday. Their defensive unit is very well drilled and they will not allow Armagh too many chances to take easy scores. Their scoring threats include Megan Cullen, Emma Tomkins and Emma Codd and those players will have to be carefully watched if Armagh are to get the result that the so desperately want.

Verdict: Wexford


SAFFRON’S TARGET… Antrim’s Lucia McNaughton and Kilkenny’s Roisin Phelan hold the Intermediate trophy


CUP BATTLE… Armagh’s Ciara Donnelly and Wexford’s Ciara Donohoe at the promotional day for the All-Ireland Premier Junior camogie final ©INPHOMorgan Treacy

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