Down aim to get the better of Cavan again as All-Ireland ladies' intermediate championship begins

The Mourne side beat the Breffni girls in the Ulster series last month

Down's Niamh Scullion
Down beat Cavan in their Ulster intermediate championship opener in April and face the Breffni Blues again to begin their All-Ireland campaign (Louis McNally)

TG4 All-Ireland Ladies’ IFC Group 1, round one

Cavan v Down (Sunday, Redhills, 2pm)

ULSTER intermediate champions Down open their All-Ireland campaign away to Cavan on Sunday, the sides meeting for the second time this championship season.

The Mourne county won 2-10 to 0-6 in the preliminary round of the provincial competition just over a month ago before going on to defeat Antrim in the semi-final and then Monaghan in a dramatic final two weeks ago.

Monaghan made Down battle to the end to win their first provincial intermediate title since 2021. They were in control at half-time and it looked even better when they found the net through Laoise Duffy a minute into the second half to lead by 10 points. However, Monaghan laid siege to the Down goal thereafter and could have snatched the win or at the very least forced extra-time but they missed a couple of late chances and Down held on.

“There were huge positives to take from the final, the resilience of the team under serious pressure from a quality Monaghan side,” said Sloan, joint manager with Peter Lynch.

“We always look to improve our game, constantly trying to be better is one of our aims. The second half against Monaghan posed lots of questions of the girls and forced the players on the field to come up with solutions and were delighted with how they responded in real time.”

The Ulster pair are joined in Group One but Westmeath, who lost the Leinster decider to Wexford.

With just three teams in the group and the top two qualifying for the knockout stages there is little margin for error.

Cavan were relegated from senior last year and, like Westmeath, played in Division Two of the league this season, a level above Down.

Cavan beat Westmeath in the league earlier this year although it was not enough for them to avoid relegation.

Westmeath reached the quarter-finals of the championship last year and will hope to at least get back there again this year. Down are full of confidence as they re-enter the intermediate championship after last year’s All-Ireland junior success, backed up by their recent Ulster victory.

“Cavan were a senior team for so long, they still carry the weight of that and we’re aware of the experience of many of their players,” he said.

“We’ll need to be at our best to bring the game to them. We got the rub of the green in the Ulster championship against them but that counts for nothing now,” said Sloan.

Cavan manager Mickey O’Rourke believes there are some big performances in his side and he is looking forward to the chance to take on Down again.

“Down are a team full of confidence and playing very well as a unit,” he said.

“They have proved over the last 12 months that they enjoying the game and willing to work hard for each other. It’s not as much an unknown as the first round of Ulster, but we will need to improve all over the field to compete.

“We are taking every game one at a time, and the feeling in the group is if we click, there are a few big performances in us.

“Each game is winnable and that is our aim, with so few teams in the groups you need to put your best foot forward from the beginning.”