Antrim camogs step up to Senior

Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Camogie Championships

There are four tiers in the All-Ireland championships, Senior, Intermediate, Premier Junior and the Nancy Murray Cup. Teams playing in higher grades may enter a second team in Intermediate or Junior. There is promotion and relegation from each grade at the end of the championship.

The All-Ireland senior championship has taken place every year since 1932 and just seven counties have won the title – Cork (28 titles, last in 2018), Dublin (26, 1984), Kilkenny (14, 2020), Wexford (7, 2012), Antrim (6, 1979), Tipperary (5, 2004) and current champions Galway with four titles.

Almost 50 years ago winning the provincial championship to gain a place in the All-Ireland was abandoned in favour of an Open Draw and that has since been replaced around two decades ago by group qualification for the knock-out stages.

The camogie championships culminates in a triple-header All Ireland final at Croke Park on Sunday, August 7. The Premier Junior final leads into the Intermediate final and the afternoon ends with the senior championship final.

The Nancy Murray Cup final is on Saturday, August 6 with the winner going through to next year’s Premier Junior championship.

THERE are 12 counties in the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland senior championship, divided into two groups. The All-Ireland finalists (Galway & Cork) and semi-finalists (Kilkenny & Tipperary) from last year were seeded to have one of each in a group. The Groups are:

Group One: Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, Dublin and Clare.

Group Two: Galway, Kilkenny, Down, Antrim, Limerick and Offaly.

The top team in each group will go into this year’s semi-final, while second and third placed in each will contest quarter-finals. Bottom placed team in each group will face each other in a relegation play-off.

ANTRIM

Antrim have plenty going for them not least the fact that they been senior champions on six occasions, although the last of those was more than 40 years ago.

They won last year’s All-Ireland Intermediate championship with a flamboyant performance in Croke Park and most recently beat Down to reclaim the Ulster senior title. The start to that game was also excellent with two goals inside ten minutes and plenty of ball sprayed out to the wings. Defence was also super-tight in that Ulster final, and Down didn’t create a single goal chance.

However that was not the case in Croke Park a month earlier when they played Wexford in the Littlewoods National League Division Two final; opened up at the back in the opening 20 minutes and battling after that to avoid a heavy defeat.

Although they easily beat Kilkenny’s second string in Croke Park last September, they conceded 2-13 in that game.

The Saffrons played the recent Ulster final without regular midfielder Nicole O’Neill and defender Maria Lynn, while Maeve Kelly looks to be out for the season with a broken bone in her foot.

Kelly’s long term absence has meant opportunities up front for three new panel members, Caoimhe Wright, Siobhán McKillop and Maedhbh Laverty. All three have shown flashes of potential without achieving the consistency needed to deliver against the top teams.

The temporary absences of Lynn and O’Neill saw a reshuffle at the back. As a result play-anywhere Amy Boyle could find herself settled into a one-on-one marking job in defence for the rest of the season.

Last year Antrim found minor Áine Magill between league and championship and she added the little extra. With the minors successful for the last two years and the county’s second team also going well, there could be more treasure unearthed.

The Saffrons start their campaign with two away games and finish up with three games at home.

The opener against Offaly is a game they could well win, although they would probably be more confident had the game been at a north Antrim venue.

The result in that game should indicate what lies ahead.

A win, and expectation would rise that they can reach the quarter-final. Even a draw would be a good platform for progress. Defeat on the other hand could well leave them, like Down last season, struggling to find their rhythm.

If they get anything from Tullamore, then you would expect them to beat Down in the second game and all would depend on the final group game against Limerick.

Antrim panel: Cáitríona Graham, Amy Boyle, Chloe Drain, Katie McKillop, Colleen Patterson, Caoimhe Conlon, Laoise McKenna, Lucia McNaughton capt., Niamh Cosgrove, Áine Magill, Róisín McCormick, Christine Laverty, Caitrin Dobbin, Maedhbh Laverty, Caoimhe Wright, Siobhán McKillop, Niamh Anne Donnelly, Nicole O’Neill, Maria Lynn, Clare McKillop, Catherine McShane, Eimear Boyle, Ciara Laverty, Maeve Kelly.

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