Lidl Ladies’ NFL Division Three previews: Antrim and Down need some points on the board

Manager Emma Kelly feels her side are learning in their Division Three campaign to date

Antrim manager Emma Kelly, whose side will now face Monaghan in the quarter-finals of the All-Ireland IFC
At the helm: Antrim manager Emma Kelly.
Lidl NFL Division Three, round three
Wexford v Antrim (Sunday, Chadwicks Wexford Park, 2pm)

ANTRIM manager Emma Kelly is hoping for a turn of fortune when the Saffrons head to Wexford for their next round Division Three league fixture tomorrow.

They have lost both games they have played – a 5-4 to 2-8 defeat to Offaly two weeks ago and a 1-10 to 1-6 loss to Louth on the opening day – putting them bottom of the table along with Down.

It has certainly been a far from ideal start to their life in Division Three having tried for so many years to reach the next tier but with a huge change in personnel among the players, it is where they find themselves, already battling for survival.

Going to play Wexford, who are mid-table but three points from a possible six, though t could have been very different had they been able to see out even one of those games, after dominating for long periods.

“It has been a frustrating start to the season. In both games against Louth and Offaly we were probably in control. Louth was a sickener in that basically, we had most possession, we were the better team, but we didn’t get across the line.

“Offaly, I would say they same. They got a lot of goals and the scoreline looks worse but if anybody had been there you would have seen that we were definitely, in the first half anyway, all over them,” said Kelly.

It’s a steep learning curve for the new faces on board but Kelly has every belief in them and has seen improvements from one game to the other, and with no game last week, it has been a chance to work on areas they feel need improved.

“I think it is basically showing our lack of experience at the minute. The girls are still trying to get used to each other. Some girls are being forced to play out of position as well due to injuries, small squad, things like that. We are in a rebuilding, transition phase.

“For some it’s their first time playing county senior and it’s a steep learning curve, especially if they don’t play club football at that level. But, they are improving week in, week out and people watching us would say that Louth and Offaly were two games that we possibly threw away so we can take that as a positive, frustrating as it may be, although it could come back to bite us later on because obviously we don’t want to go straight back down again.”

Wexford have won one and lost one, their 1-5 to 0-5 victory coming over Down two weeks ago while they lost their opening game to Clare, scoring a solitary point, in a 1-7 to 0-1 defeat. Even with that mixed bag of results, Kelly knows Wexford will prove to be tough opposition, hoping to pile further pressure on Antrim.

“We will go down to Wexford. We have nothing to lose. The girls, I have no doubt, will battle hard and go out try their best. I think it’s just about learning as we go along. We will just have to take each game as it comes, try and get our match-ups right with the girls that we have and hope that everybody steps up and get across the line.”

Lidl National Football League Division Three round 3:
Sligo v Down (Tomorrow, Eastern Harps GAA, 1pm)

DOWN travel to Sligo tomorrow for the first of three crucial games on the road as they look to climb out of relegation danger.

With two defeats from their first two rounds to Roscommon and Wexford, the Mourne County find themselves at the foot of the table along with Antrim, and with the bottom two teams being relegated to the lower division this season, both Ulster sides want to move up the table as quickly as possible.

While their start to the season has not been what they wanted, joint manager Caoibhe Sloan remains optimistic and knows there is plenty of football to be played over the remaining five rounds.

They have three consecutive away games starting with Sligo, then Antrim and then Offaly before finishing at home to Louth and Clare.

“It’s a long league campaign with only two games out of seven played. Thankfully there’s plenty of football to be played here with massive games in the next few weeks,” said Sloan.

“People are moving well in training and we know that Sligo will present another massive challenge and it’s up to us to take our chances when they come. We’ve learned the chances are few and far between and it’s about which team takes them when they’re presented.

With the week’s break, it has give Sloan and Peter Lynch a chance to work on making improvements from the opening two days and hope to put that into practice against Sligo.

Tomorrow’s opposition have one point out of a possible six, that a draw on the opening day against Offaly. When the sides met in the league last year, Down won 2-8 to 0-9, but nothing can be read into 12 months ago.

“We remain positive despite the first two outings. Our performance against Wexford was much improved from the previous week and we’ve spent a bit of time having a look at some of the key points of games and the players reaction in training has been incredibly positive and this is a true test of character of the team. Roscommon and Wexford are top teams and they’ve shown the level we want to get to, and we know we’re not far off.”

Tomorrow (2pm)
Division Three round 3:
Sligo v Down (Eastern Harps GAA, 1pm), Louth v Offaly, Clare v Roscommon, Wexford v Antrim (Chadwicks Wexford Park)
Division Four round 4:
Fermangh v Leitrim (Donagh), Wicklow v Derry (Echelon Park, Aughrim), Kilkenny v Carlow, Limerick v Longford