All-Ireland Premier Junior Camogie Championship Round One
Roscommon v Antrim
Saturday, Ballyforan, 5pm
By Michael McMullan
ANTRIM face a trip into the unknown on Saturday when the All-Ireland Junior Championship swings into action in Roscommon.
The Rossies didn’t partake in league action this year due to the crossover of players with Four Roads’ championship involvement.
It’s the second year Antrim have put out a second team. In absence of regular training and with the team only being cobbled together for games, it failed to take off last season and the eventually pulled out of the All-Ireland series.
This season is different with Loughgiel All-Ireland winner Mark ‘Duck’ McFadden coming on board to help with the coaching with Brian and Niall Kearney also involved.
McFadden was at the helm, with Johnny Campbell, when Loughgiel won their last Ulster title before stepping away to concentrate on his playing career.
Now, with his hurl hung up, McFadden is enjoying being back in the team environment again.
“Antrim has a good set up,” he said. “This year there have been girls who have shown promise and have been called up to the senior squad.
“For the preseason, everybody trained together. When Ulster (Championship) started the seniors and juniors are training separately.”
Antrim were competitive in all their league games, but missed out on a spot in the final.
“Last year, it was a gather up,” McFadden said. “Judging by how the girls were getting on at training in the early stages of the year, I thought we should be competing.
“Then it’s a matter of bringing that belief into them on the training field. We beat Dublin in the first game and that was a great result, so knew we were there or thereabouts.”
Antrim feel short by two points to eventual winners Cavan with the same margin and result in Armagh game before a win over Carlow.
There was a Cavan rematch in the Ulster Junior Championship at Edendork. Caoimhe McNaughton notched 1-4, but as the clock ticked towards full time it was Cavan who were still in the lead.
Orlagh Laverty levelled matters before a Dervla Cosgrove free put them ahead. The drama didn’t end there and it took a save from goalkeeper Áine Graham to ensure victory.
It set up a final with Armagh, but Antrim were on the wrong side of a 0-13 to 0-6 defeat.
“We had an off day,” McFadden admitted.
“From the week against Cavan where we dictated the game for the 60 minutes, but Armagh were the better team on the day.”
The championship begins this weekend and McFadden has sent invites to six players to join up with the squad as they eye a shot at glory.
“We are taking each day as it comes and we know we can compete with Armagh and Cavan,” McFadden offered. After this weekend, the Saffrons will take on Armagh, Limerick and Down as they aim for the upper echelons of the group and a spot in the play-offs.
“Roscommon didn’t field in the league as they had a club in the All-Ireland series, so we are going into the unknown.”