Underdogs Antrim cannot be ruled out

TG4 All-Ireland Junior Ladies Football Championship semi-final

Antrim v Wicklow

(Sunday, 1pm, Ashbourne)

By Patrick McIlwaine

Antrim ladies face a stiff test when they take on Wicklow in Ashbourne on Sunday in the TG4 All Ireland Ladies Junior football semi-final and the Saffrons face a difficult task if they are to advance to the All-Ireland final.

Wicklow play their football in division 3, a grade above the Saffrons and will start Sunday’s game as firm favourites but this will surely suit Dee McConville’s side as they go into this game with nothing to lose.

The Saffrons last clinched the All-Ireland crown back in 2012, three years on from their first title and they reached an All Ireland decider again back in 2016 but lost out to Longford on that occasion.

It has been a difficult season for Antrim owing to the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in the All Ireland series being postponed but they now find themselves in a position they could hardly have dreamed of at the beginning of the lockdown.

Antrim’s win over Derry in their last outing in Augher earlier this month secured them a place in Sunday’s semi-final and the Saffrons were quite impressive in that game, running out winners by 2-11 to 1-7 after a slow start.

Manager Dee McConville has called up a number of his more experienced players and it has proved useful after a poor league campaign and the break has given his side an opportunity to get their game together and there was evidence that those changes have paid dividends last day out.

The six-month break gave the girls a chance to refocus and there were a few girls who weren’t available in the league that came back on board for the start of the Championship.

Saoirse Tennyson, Ciara Brown, Meabh McCurdy and Cathy Carey are amongst the players who have returned to the Antrim ranks and this quartet have certainly added to Antrim’s fire-power and knowhow.

McConville revealed that the Ulster Club series also affected preparations, but hailed St Paul’s for their impressive Senior Championship victory over Armagh Harps last month.

.St. Paul’s win over Armagh Harps and Moneyglass’ involvement in the Intermediate series should further boost the Saffrons confidence but they will need to be firing on all cylinders if they are to overcome the challenge of a strong Wicklow side.

Antrim looked off the pace when losing 2-8 to 1-5 to Limerick in Clane, Co Kildare in their Group B Championship opener but showed a lot of improvement against Derry with goals from Meabh McCurdy and Cathy Carey sending them on their way to a six point win.

While McConville was happy with the improvement shown against Derry, he feels that they will have to up their performance again if they are to overcome the Wicklow challenge in Asbourne.

 Wicklow are a very good team who have been playing Intermediate football for the last number of years since they won the Junior title in 2011.

They played in Division Three this year and only lost one game out of five and they will start Sunday’s game against Antrim as firm favourites but in a season that has produced a number of excellent results for the underdogs Dee McConville’s side cannot be ruled out.

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