After playing only one game Antrim find themselves in the Final of Division 3. Opposition Armagh pulled out and the Dubs dropped out giving the Saffrons a shortage of games. But thsi will all be forgotton on Sunday.
Offaly and Antrim have met on a number of occasions with only points seperating the sides. Last year Offaly eliminated the Saffrons by a single point at the play-off stages. It will be a close encounter against a gritty Offaly 15 lead by the outstanding midfielder Michelle Davis.
Having beaten Down the favoutite tag will sit on Offaly heads but Antrim are unconcerned.
The Offaly manager, legendary hurling winger Joachim Kelly will have taken note of the Antrim victory over a fancied Laois side. His daughter Aoife is also lining out for the Faithful County.
Antrim Manager Mary Connolly “” The team are looking forward to the match and there is a great upbeat atmosphere in the camp. We have not had as many games as we would have liked, but we proved against Laois that determination and self belief can carry you a long way. It’s simply a case of …same again girls.””
Antrim will be looking for big team performances from the experienced Portglenone Keeper Chrissie Doherty, her club mate at Centre back Mairead Graham and the player of the match from the Laois game Rossa’s Colleen Doherty.
Missing from the line-out is Dunloy’s Jacinta Dixon with the return of an old ankle injury.
Offaly eyes will be firmly fixed on the Antrim and Rossa ace Jane Adams playing on Sunday at Centre Forward. Rossa teenager Orla McCaul with two Underage All-Ireland medals at Under 16 and Minor will join Adams on the front line along with Creggan’s college All-Star and All-Ireland Minor medallist Shannon Graham.
Marshalling the midfield are duo Rhona Torney (Capt) from the Saint John’s club Belfast, and Loughgiels Charlene Hamill.
Mary Connolly added “” Antrim will play their own style of camogie. First time hurling will be the order of the day with an open play approach, relentless pressure and tackling to snuff out the Offaly offensive. We will pick off scores where we can and I have no doubt that if we keep up a high work rate the cracks will appear and the goals will come.””
Manager Mary Connolly carries the good wishes of Ulster and has received helpful tips from Down’s manager, old rival and friend Bunny McGreavey. Her side lost by three points to deny the Mourne outfit an all-Ulster showdown. “”I have been tipped off that Offaly’s midfield and Centre back are the powerhouse of their game. They play a dip and running game, keeping it wide with a habit of short stick passing. “”
Mary added “” our intentions are no secret. We are hungary and ready for success. Antrim are a young team with a superb mix of some of the biggest names in the game. We our as you would say…a work in progress. The potential is there for all to see. I hope it shines out on Sunday. We will keep it simple and aim to get it right first time…every time.’
Interview with Jane Adams
JANE Adams and a new-look Antrim side has a score to settle at Blanchardstown on Sunday.
A year ago, Offaly eliminated the Ulster team by a heartbreaking single point in Division Three of camogie’s National League campaign.
There’s a heavy whiff of revenge in the Antrim air now as the teams collide in this season’s Division Three final.
Adams, arguably Antrim and Ulster’s most accomplished and prolific forward of modern times, is determined deja vu does not happen on the St Peregrine’s pitch on Dublin city’s green belt.
The Rossa club ace, who runs her own flourishing fast-food chip shop enterprise near Beechmount on Belfast’s Falls Road, has not forgotten the numbing loss to the Leinster side.
Jane said: “”Michelle Davis was their midfield player last year. She was, I reckon, their best player then when they put us out. We won our two matches before they beat us in a Division Three decider.
“”Fiona Stephens and Michelle Davis could be their centrehalf back and midfield this time.
“”We could be rated favourites in some quarters because we beat Laois, who were fancied to go all the way before we put them out last week. But, we will need to be really at ourselves, firing on all cylinders, to win this one.””
In the sole inter-county exercise of the season, Jane scored 1-7 against Laois.
She added: “”Hopefully my form is improving. I feel I’m getting fitter, but not having games has been a problem for the Antrim squad.
“”We have a lot of young individual talents, all excellent players, and hopefully we can gell as a team. We have been training together very well, but it takes matches.
“”It took us a wee while to really find our form in the one game played, against Laois . . . although we just got stuck in from the start, and went five points ahead.
“”Maybe we eased off then, perhaps thinking we were better than Laois. But, they came back really, really strongly at us. They were beating us by two points.
“”Then everybody in our team came up with the goods. Antrim played very well for the last quarter of the match. Colleen Doherty from my club was outstanding against Laois.
“”She normally plays in the midfield for Rossa, but for a first time was half back for Antrim. I think she has found her position.
“”Colleen was a very big asset for us last week. She pulled us out of a lot of holes. She is an ‘oul doll’ like me, also 26 years of age. Seriously, Colleen is one of the most experienced players in the squad, while we have a number of very exciting young players in the Antrim panel.””
Antrim will be looking for big performances not only from Jane Adams and Colleen Doherty but also from experienced Portglenone goalkeeper Chrissie Doherty and her club colleague at centre back, Mairead Graham.
Up front, alongside Adams, will be 18-year-old Rossa forward Orla McCaul, while skipper Rhona Torney of St John’s and Loughgiel’s Charlene Hamill form a solid midfield.
Because Armagh and Dublin decided to withdraw from the National League programme it left the Saffron players generally kicking their heels.
Now it is a case of the devil you already know, clashing with a competent Offaly side that eliminated Down last week. That result suggests Antrim players are in for a hot time.
Unlike the view of the talismanic Adams, Antrim manager Mary Connolly makes Offaly the heavily fancied team.
Mary said: “”Offaly’s win against Down is a warning. After our win over Laois our players are looking forward to the match. There is a great upbeat atmosphere in the camp.
“”We have not had as many games as we would have liked, yet we proved against Laois that determination and self belief can carry you a long way. It’s simply a case of – same again, girls.
“”We have a young team with a superb mix that includes some of the biggest names in the game. However, ours is a work-in-progress situation. The potential is there. We will keep it simple, and aim to get it right against Offaly.
“”We must stick to our own style of camogie, featuring first-time striking. We’ll need relentless pressure. I have no doubt if we keep up a high workrate the cracks will appear, and the goals will come.””
Mary Connolly also revealed she received helpful tips from Down’s manager, old rival and friend Bunny McGreevy: “”Bunny tells me an Offaly midfielder and their centre back are the powerhouse players. Offaly has a dip and running game, keeping it wide and with a habit of short-stick passing.””
The manager of this surprise-packet Offaly outfit is well known to Antrim hurling folk. He is the legendary winger Joachim Kelly, whose daughter Aoife is in the team.
Offaly has a mixture of experienced players such as Michelle Davis, Fiona Stephens, Karen Nugent and Elaine Dermody. The young prospects include 2005 All-Ireland Under-16 medallists Siobhßn Flannery, Amy Dooley, and Lorraine Keenan.
Ulster PR Committee