High-flying Down camogie squad aiming for Carlow scalp
Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship
Saturday June 23: 5pm: Birr: Offaly v Meath; Innovate Wexford Park : Wexford v Tipperary
Sunday June 24: 2.30pm: Páirc Uí Rinn: Cork v Dublin
June 9: Cork 0-19 Wexford 0-7, Dublin 3-14 Offaly 3-9, Tipperary 6-14 Meath 0-9
A fortnight ago, all three games in Group 2 of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior camogie championship went to form. Predicting three winners out of this weekend's programme might be somewhat more problematic.
Birr: Offaly v Meath
When Offaly and Meath last met it was two months ago in the National League Division 1 Relegation play-off and there was a convincing 3-17 to 1-7 victory for Offaly.
The results from a fortnight ago point towards a similar outcome in Birr. Offaly did very well in running Dublin to five points, 3-14 to 3-9, while Meath were shipping a 6-14 to 0-9 hammering from Tipperary.
Meath were always going to struggle at this level and would be strong candidates to revert to the Intermediate grade next season, while Offaly have forged a few decent results at senior level.
Verdict : Offaly
Innovate Wexford Park : Wexford v Tipperary
Now here is a really interesting game. Tipperary, very comfortable winners over Meath, against Wexford who had a disappointing 0-19 to 0-7 outing against champions Cork, but who are now at home for this tie.
When they met in the opening round of the league five months ago, Wexford edged home 3-10 to 2-12. A lot has happened in the meantime – but neither team has really done anything to suggest that their season is going to run aground early. Tipperary have only beaten Offaly and Meath since, while Wexford's sole win came against Offaly.
The winner here will be favourites to reach the All-Ireland quarter-final, the loser to depart the scene before the knock-out stages kick in. It could go either way.
Verdict : Tipperary
Sunday June 24 2.30pm
Páirc Uí Rinn: Cork v Dublin
Was Dublin's run to the semi-finals last year a high point, or can the Metropolitans sustain their challenge this season? We will get closer to knowing the answer to that question after this game in the back yard of the All-Ireland champions.
Dublin were less than convincing in their last outing, against Offaly, who actually defeated them a month ago in the Leinster semi-final, and they didn't have a particularly good league run.
Some have pointed out that their heavy training schedule was geared towards the championship alone – but a five points' win over Offaly was hardly a great sign of an extended summer run.
Cork meanwhile put their narrow defeat to Kilkenny in the league final behind them and impressed against Wexford.
Verdict : Cork – but Dublin need to make an impression
Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Championship
June 23: 5pm: Network Training Centre, Fenagh: Carlow v Down; Cork Camogie Grounds: Cork v Laois
June 16: Down 0-18 Derry 1-15, Cork 5-18 Carlow 0-6
Network Training Centre, Fenagh: Carlow v Down
When Down visited this venue back in the middle of March, they lost by 3-10 to 2-8 and all involved with the Ulster side were looking for some vague signs that they could win a match of any description in 2018.
How they have turned that situation around after five straight league defeats and a scoring deficit of -47 points.
Now they are undefeated in the four games they have played in the interim and confidence is high.
So much so that if they don't win in Carlow, they will be very disappointed in themselves.
They would have been favourites to win the Division Two relegation play-off with Kildare, but to beat Armagh and then Derry to collect the Ulster title – that was unexpected. However last Saturday's 0-18 to 1-15 draw with Derry was probably their best performance to date.
The element of surprise was gone and they lost key forward Sarah Louise Carr to injury after just 15 minutes. They then came back from the brink in the first half and again in the second to go ahead with Derry happy in the end to get the draw.
The form and mercurial talent of Portaferry's Niamh Mallon has had spectators on their feet through the last three games, 0-9 against Armagh, 1-6 against Derry in the provincial final and then 0-11 last Saturday – with only six of the total coming from frees! She single-handedly carried the line after the injury to Sarah Louise on Saturday.
Elsewhere the team has settled well in defence around Fionnuala Carr and Alannah Savage.
From Carlow's end, they will be looking for some kind of response after a 5-18 to 0-6 hammering in Cork. In the light of that score-line though, it would be understandable that, should Down build up a five or six points lead early in the game, the home side might well drop the head.
Verdict: Down to reverse the league defeat
Cork Camogie Grounds: Cork v Laois
Laois didn't have a game in the first round of fixtures, and they now have this difficult opener against the league champions in Cork.
The Mid-landers defeated Kildare, Derry and Armagh in the league – the Derry result probably the main talking point as that was unexpected in Owenbeg.
Cork however are unbeaten this year and have usually torn apart mid-table teams like Laois. I can't see that changing.
Verdict: Another easy victory for Cork
Ulster Under 16 Championship Cup semi-final
Saturday 2.30pm: Ahoghill: Antrim v Derry; Granemore: Armagh v Down
Shield semi-finals: Saturday 2.30pm: Monaghan v Tyrone; Cavan v Donegal
EIGHT counties are involved in the Ulster under 16 championship today (SATURDAY), with probably the most interest in the game at Ahoghill where Antrim host Bannside neighbours Derry.
The pendulum in underage camogie has swung very definitely towards the Saffrons over the past few years and they have collected titles at both provincial and national level, while the north Antrim schools are also coming through quite strongly led by Cross and Passion Ballycastle.
Derry dominated for a period before that and their under-age teams are always capable of mounting a serious challenge at any level.
Antrim should win though.
The core of the Armagh team will come from the St Catherine's College team that contested the Ulster Junior A final.
Down on the other hand don't tend to impress at school level but often can pull together different strands to form a useful challenge.
This one is hard to call.
Meanwhile in the Under 16 Shield semi-finals, Cavan and Tyrone seem to making big strides at under-age level and this should be the final pairing later in the month.