ANTRIM v CLARE
SUNDAY 27th JULY 2008
Antrim take on Clare in Dunloy on Sunday 27th at 1:00pm in their last group game in the All Ireland Junior Championship. Even after a defeat to Offaly who they have previously beaten to win the Div 3 National League play off the girls have not lost sight of the goal they had set at the beginning of this their Centenary year which is the Junior All Ireland Championship. When Mary Connolly & Grace McMullan brought them together at the start of 2008 they girls were confident with the new managements guidance they could better their last years performance where they got to the Semi and bring the Championship to Antrim. With promotion gained into Div 2 of the National League the Saffrons are hopefull of an All Ireland this year.
Manager Mary Connolly quotes
æThe Clare team are an unknown package for Antrim however we are aware that they are unbeaten to date. We have to hit the ground running for this game – it is a must win scenario otherwise our hopes for a place in the All Ireland Junior final will not be realised. We started well against Offaly; going in at half time five points to the good, however we were slow to get going at the restart and loosing Jane early into the second half rocked the team and we never really recovered. The girls have had time to re-group and have put the Offaly game firmly behind them; they have prepared well and are fully focused on the Clare game. They know exactly what they must do to secure the win and with home advantage and our loyal supporters behind us we are confident that we can beat this Clare team and get back into the running for the Championship.
In her county days she was regarded as one of Ulster’s finest forwards, helping to steer Antrim to All-Ireland junior glory in 1997.
Now ‘Amazing’ Grace McMullan has taken over as Antrim camogie manager in a bid to restore pride in the county and lead her team to All-Ireland success once again.
Grace who works as a fitness instructor, manages the team along with her sister Mary Connolly, who also played for the county, winning a senior All-Ireland medal in 1979 and a junior All-Ireland medal in 1997.
The new Antrim manager is enjoying a revival in her camogie career, playing in the Derry senior league with the newly promoted Eoghan Rua, Coleraine.
And since taking the reins at Antrim, she has already helped secure the Ulster title for the first time in six years and is now plotting All-Ireland glory.
“”The team are more than capable of competing for an All-Ireland, we just have to believe and work hard. The girls have done this throughout the season and hopefully we’ll get a result on Sunday,” said Grace.
When asked about how she and Mary have managed to turn Antrim’s fortunes around she remained modest saying: “”Mary and I are lucky in that we’ve got a great squad to work with, we’ve just tried to add belief to the talent that’s there.””
Antrim now face Clare, who disposed of Down knowing they need a win to secure a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals. Grace is adamant that the Saffron girls will be more than up for the task.
“”All the girls know what we have to do so they’ll go out there and perform and if each of them do that I don’t see why we wouldn’t get a result against Clare. Obviously they’re a good side but we’re more than capable of getting a win it’s just about belief and performing on the day,” she said.
The game takes place in Dunloy on Sunday 27 July at 1pm. Derry Juniors and Armagh are involved this weekend in the Nancy Murray Cup tomorrow. Derry will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Armagh with a win against Carlow in Leighlinnbridge at 2pm.
The Oak Leaf girls need a win to progress to the semi-finals. Armagh are also in action this week with a game in Ballymacnab at 4pm against Westmeath a win should see the Orchard girls progress to the semi-finals.
Also this weekend Down face Offaly in their final New Ireland Cup match at Ballyholland at 2pm. The Down team will be disappointed not to have qualified after they got off to a good start in the League but injuries to key players halted their progress and now the Mourne county will be aiming to rebuild for next years campaign.