Antrim camogs are over their rocky start ahead of final clash with Derry: Caitrín Dobbin

Loughgiel goal-machine ready to hit the Mac stage

Caitrín Dobbin is among those that will have to produce a big display if Antrim are to trouble Tipperary.
Caitrín Dobbin ready for Sunday's final with Derry
Armagh City Hotel Ulster senior championship final: Derry v Antrim (Saturday, Edendork 4.15pm)

AT the turn of the year Caitrín Dobbin was the only Ulster player named in the Camogie Club Team of the Year, Loughgiel’s exit coming to eventual champions Dicksboro at the semi-final stage in mid-December.

As most inter-county players who have recently collected a provincial title know there is little time to draw breath before the start of the new season.

That, however, probably helped Dobbin and the rest of her club-mates cope with the situation the county team found themselves in.

“It was an unfortunate start for Antrim this year,” the new county captain says of the upheaval in the Antrim camp coming into the start of the National League that saw the management team step away a couple of days before the opening game.

“Because of the short break between club and inter-county over the past few years, we have got used to continuing our individual work and doing plenty outside the group. It wasn’t ideal, but it helped us,” says the Ballymena-based civil servant.

The Saffrons actually won that opening game against Down but fell heavily to Wexford the next day.

“It was a rocky start and we knew that would have a bearing on what we could get from the League. But we won three games and it was disappointing to lose the last one to Dublin. Thankfully, we have built on that defeat and are now in focused preparation for Saturday’s game.”

Saturday’s game is the Armagh City Hotel Ulster final with Antrim taking on Derry. Derry have broken up the six weeks between the end of the League and this weekend with two games, a League final and an Ulster semi-final, while Antrim face into their first competitive game since the league defeat to Dublin.

“To be honest, we needed a break. It allowed us to take time out to think, re-group and come back stronger. Without doubt, competitive games improve team play but we’ve had some effective in-house and challenge games to compensate.”

Over the six weeks there has been a spate of injuries in the camp, the most serious to co-captain Colleen Patterson.

“Unfortunately these injuries come with the territory but every week is time towards recovery. Colleen tearing her ACL is a huge blow to the team both motivationally and physically because she is such a dynamic player. Hopefully the other injured players will be back soon.

“The mood in camp is very focused and motivated to hopefully lift the Ulster title this weekend. We are under no illusions that Derry will be a tough and competitive challenge.”

Alongside her camogie, the Loughgiel goal-machine has been working hard on her dancing with the show “Fairytale of New York” taking to the stage in the Mac for two nights, May 24 and 25, and then two more in the Braid centre in Ballymena, June 14 and 21.

“Yes, it can be physically demanding. However, both sets of coaches have a mutual understanding and work well together. My preparation for the show has been a little different this time in that not only am I taking part but I’ve been closely involved in the choreographic side.

“However my focus this week is solely on Saturday’s game.”