By Daragh Ë Conch·ir
The Irish Daily Star Division Two final is a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland Junior decider and if Antrim and Waterford serve up as much of a feast as they did for that occasion, the supporters that turn up in Ashbourne will be in for a treat.
Indeed, it took a replay to separate the teams on that occasion so fans got a double-serving of the best of what these two sides have to offer. In the latter game, second half goals from Michaela Convery and Laura Connolly helped Antrim overturn a six-point interval deficit to win by 2-10 to 0-12 after the first game at Croke Park had ended in a 1-9 apiece draw.
The Saffrons are playing with tremendous belief as a result of that success and emerged from Group 1 with a 100% record from four games played.
In the past they have been over-reliant on the magnificence of Jane Adams but Raquel McCarry has stepped up to the mark in considerable fashion, augmenting her accurate free-taking with a genuine threat from play.
Antrim’s goal-scoring threat is very evident and they struck the net 11 times while also confirming themselves as a side that fights to the final whistle when just edging past last year’s intermediate runners-up Wexford by two points.
Waterford have had to pick themselves up from last term’s disappointment, particularly as they had lost the 2009 All-Ireland as well.
They began well with two wins but were held to a draw by Tipperary and then to another by Kilkenny. That allowed Cork to sneak back into contention despite having beaten their neighbours in the second round by two points.
The DÚise made no mistake in the winner-takes-all play-off between the sides though when significant contributions by Patricia Jackman, Karen Kelly and Ruth Geoghegan earned them a place in this final on a 1-12 to 1-9 scoreline.
Waterford will not be lacking for motivation after what happened last year but Antrim are playing like a group that doesn’t believe it will lose, even in tight encounters.
And that is exactly what we’re likely to have here.