Must-win games as All-Ireland ladies championship hots up

By Niall Gartland

All Ireland Senior Ladies Championship – Group Three round three

Tyrone v Waterford

Saturday, Mullingar, 2pm

THE unfortunate thing from a Tyrone perspective heading into this must-win game is injuries to key players.

Niamh McGirr has been carrying a knock and Saturday’s game may come too soon. Neamh Woods is touch and go but played a bit-part role in their opening day defeat to Dublin, while Emma Brennan and Slainne McCarroll are most definitely out. They’ll still fancy their chances against the Déise in their second and final group stage game. Tyrone carry more of a threat up front than their counterparts, though Megan Dunford is an ace free-taker.

Waterford’s full-back line was ripped to shreds against Dublin, and had to be replaced wholesale by the 30th minute.

Tyrone were well beaten by the Dubs as well, but it was a commendable performance and they have every chance against Waterford.

Verdict: Tyrone

All Ireland Senior Ladies Championship – Group One round three

Cavan v Monaghan

Saturday, Kingspan Breffni, 2pm

IT’S fair to say there’s plenty on the line in Saturday’s El Clasico between Monaghan and Cavan ladies.

Both sides lost their opening two matches in this four-team group, so defeat for either team would mean they’ll finish bottom of the group and face a senior status relegation play-off.

The Breffni county were beaten at the weekend by 3-18 to 3-10 to Armagh. They found Aimee Mackin too hot to handle as she chalked up 10 points on the day, but it was still a respectable showing in the circumstances.

Monaghan, meanwhile, will be bitterly disappointed to have lost on free-kicks to Mayo. The two games couldn’t be separated after half time, leaving free-kicks to determine the winner.

Remarkably, only one 30-metre free-kick was successful, Mayo’s Shauna Howley with the conversion. It’s a pity for Monaghan, but it’ll be interesting to see whether they can take the positives from the game when they face their neighbours Cavan.

Verdict: Monaghan

All Ireland Senior Ladies Championship – Group Four round three

Donegal v Kerry

Saturday, Tuam, 5pm

THERE’S scant room for error in these group stage matches, so Maxi Curran’s team will have been disappointed to relinquish a five-point deficit as they slumped to an opening day defeat to Galway.

It means they seem must account for Kerry in their second and final match in order to progress to the last eight, in a match that will be broadcast live on TG4.

The Kingdom are a strong team who have lived in the shadow of their illustrious neighbours Cork over the course of the last 15 years.

They’ve had some setbacks this year, including a hugely disappointing defeat to Meath in the Division Two final. Maybe it’s our intrinsic northern bias but we have a fancy for Donegal here.

Verdict: Donegal

All Ireland Senior Ladies Championship – Group One round three

Armagh v Mayo

Saturday, Ballinamore, 2pm

ON paper, both Armagh and Mayo can afford to take it easy in their final group stage clash as they’ve already booked their place in the quarter-finals.

However, Ronan Murphy’s Armagh may be looking further down the line and will realise that if they finish top of the group, they’ll likely avoid having to face Cork in the last eight.

Our hunch is that both teams will play with integrity and go for the win, but that the game may lack some of the intensity that would’ve been apparent if there was something more significant at stake.

Armagh were in flying form in their recent 3-18 to 3-10 victory over Cavan. Aimee Mackin, Caroline O’Hanlon, Kelly Mallon and Aoife McCoy are terrific attackers, and while Mayo are a fine team in their own right, they don’t look as potent in attack. For that reason we’ll give Armagh the nod.

Verdict: Armagh

All-Ireland Ladies Intermediate Championship – Group Two round three

Clare v Fermanagh

Sunday, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, 2pm

FERMANAGH’S opening day defeat to Leitrim means they simply must do the business against Clare to advance to the knock-out stages. It won’t be an easy task. Manager Jonny Garrity says on paper Leitrim are the best team they will have faced in his three years managing the side, but they’ll have taken some solace from their one-point defeat to Leitrim in the first round. Leitrim scored the final two points of the game, so it was a heartbreaking victory, but it showed that Fermanagh are well able to compete at Intermediate level. Goalkeeper Shauna Murphy made two penalty stops, while Eimear Smyth was in great form as per usual in front of the posts. Clare are quite a bit better than Leitrim so it’ll take a massive performance to beat them.

Verdict: Clare

All-Ireland Junior Ladies Championship round three

Antrim v Limerick

Saturday, Tang, 2pm

THE Saffrons are by no means dead and buried after their surprise defeat to Derry in the opening round, but they really have to get back on track when they face Limerick this weekend. Antrim had already beaten Derry twice this year – in the league and the Ulster Junior final – but they lost out by 1-7 to 0-7 on a day to forget for all involved.

If you open the record books and look at the Division Four tables from recent years, Limerick and Antrim usually fare pretty similarly. The Saffrons have been doing slightly better this season, though.

Verdict: Antrim

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