Intermediate survival on the line as Antrim and Cavan clash

The loser of Saturday’s clash will still have one more chance to stay in the middle tier for next season

Antrim manager Emma Kelly, whose side will now face Monaghan in the quarter-finals of the All-Ireland IFC
Antrim manager Emma Kelly, whose side face into a relegation battle in the intermediate championship

TG4 All-Ireland Ladies’ IFC relegation qualifier

Antrim v Cavan (Saturday, Inniskeen, 2pm)

ANTRIM and Cavan will battle it out for their intermediate championship status on Saturday, hoping to salvage something from what has been a poor season.

The winner will remain in the middle tier of championship for next season with the loser getting one more chance to stay up, playing the loser of the other qualifier between Offaly and Wicklow (Sunday, Crettyard, 2pm).

Both counties are going through a rebuilding process and have been finding results hard to come by.

After last year’s remarkable run, which saw them win Division Four, the Ulster intermediate title for the first time and reach the last four of the All-Ireland series, Saffrons supporters and indeed players certainly would not have envisaged such a downward spiral, but with huge turnover in personnel, especially of experienced players, that is what has happened, with relegation back to Division Four followed by heavy championship defeats to Roscommon and Wexford.

“It’s definitely not where we want to be, and we definitely do not want to have to have a second chance. We want to go out and get the job done on Saturday,” said manager Emma Kelly.

“There has been a good buzz about the girls and about training, even though we are where we are, and they are positive about getting across the line on Saturday.

“It has been a frustrating year for the girls who have been involved these past couple of years, that all of a sudden we are back to rebuilding and transitioning but it does happen.

“All we can do is go out with the positivity that is there and hope the girls have the energy and the belief that they can do it, because I certainly believe they have the talent to get across the line.

“Then it will be a reset and we will review the pros and cons of this year. But even the outsider can see that we have just been riddled with one thing after another. It has been a tough one all year round.”

Cavan are also rebuilding under Mickey O’Rourke and their year has followed a similar pattern with relegation from Division Two and then losses to Down and Westmeath in championship.

The Breffni boss feels that despite the defeats they are competing with the other teams and with each game there are improvements and they feel they are good enough to come away with the win against Antrim.

“The feeling around the group and management is positive. We know where we started and we can see a lot of improvement, and have identified a lot of what we see as our shortcomings and are working had to improve on them,” he said.

“We have completed well with everyone and feel we are not as far behind teams as results may suggest. As a group we are in much the same period of development as Antrim, they too have had a big turnover of players

“Do we have enough to stay up? Yes, I feel we have, but Antrim will surely be looking at us as a big chance for them to get the win they need.”