Hurling & Camogie

Antrim's camogs need to bounce back from heavy defeat as Kerry come north

Derry renew rivalry with Meath, who they beat to win last year’s All-Ireland intermediate title

Carl McCormick
Carl McCormick Carl McCormick has taken the reins in Antrim and a win over Kerry this weekend can help them stay in the top flight (©INPHO/Oisin Keniry ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry/©INPHO/Oisin Keniry)

Very Ireland Camogie League (all games Saturday, 2pm, unless stated)

Division 1B, round three

Antrim v Kerry (Randalstown)

Dublin v Limerick (Parnell Park)

Down v Wexford (Ballycran)

THERE is a clear divide this season between the top three and bottom three in this section.

This weekend, there are two games involving teams within the divide and those games therefore take on an extra significance.

Antrim’s home game against Kerry is one of those. The Saffrons can secure their place for next year at this level by beating the visitors to Randalstown and leaving Kerry and Down with a straight fight for survival in the final group game.

Where do you start with Antrim?

The upheavals of the past few weeks have seen them use 25 different players in the opening two games.

While there was a certain familiarity about the team that beat Down by four points a fortnight ago, only six starters in Attical made the trip to face a Wexford team that really took advantage of the situation.

I doubt if Antrim will be as inexperienced for this home game, but stand-in manager Carl McCormick is in the invidious situation of not knowing at the start of the week what players he can access at the weekend.

If they field as strong a line-up as they managed against Down, they have a decent chance of beating Kerry. A very experimental Antrim line-out, like last week, would mean a real struggle to get anything from the game.

The visitors are a solid enough team. Admittedly they don’t have enough quality players to really compete at this level, but there is shape to the team and they play with the togetherness that brought them to a surprise Division 2A title last year in Croke Park.

The other key game is the visit of Limerick to Dublin. Whoever loses here will probably struggle to make the final against a rampant Wexford team.

Dublin is the team that was relegated from Division 1A and, while their defeat to Wexford was tough to take, they nevertheless posted a decent performance and would have been expected to beat Kerry easily at the weekend. 2-14 to 0-8 was comfortable but it is a bit short of the 3-23 to 1-4 trimming Limerick gave their neighbours in the opening round.

The final game crosses the divide in the group and Down will struggle against Wexford, although their structure suggests that they are better equipped than Antrim were to keep their focus for the full game.

Verdict A win for Wexford; Dublin v Limerick to go to the wire, while the other result depends very much on how strong a team Antrim field.

Division 1A, round three

Cork v Tipperary (Páirc Uí Rinn, 12pm)

Galway v Kilkenny (Loughrea)

Waterford v Clare (Fraher Field)

AFTER just two rounds only All-Ireland champions Cork remain on full points.

They had a high-scoring single point win over Tipperary and then a low-scoring 1-6 to 0-6 victory over Waterford in a repeat of the All-Ireland final.

Waterford beat Tipperary in round one, but the Premier county, with Eimear McGrath in scintillating form, beat Galway last day out. That was achieved without the services of long-serving top-scorer Cáit Devane.

League champions Galway and Kilkenny have lost a game each. Therefore their head-to-head means that it would be very difficult for the loser to reach the decider.

Galway’s defeat by Tipperary last day out was a surprise and you would feel that they would need to make a statement of intent, especially with home venue for this game.

Clare would seem to be the fall guys in this division. They lost their opening games by nine and 10 points respectively. I can’t see them beating this Waterford team who are playing well.

Verdict Wins for Cork and Waterford with the other game going to the wire.

Division 2A, round three

Cavan v Offaly (Corlough)

Westmeath v Carlow (Joristown)

Derry v Meath (Owenbeg)

DERRY will find out this weekend if they have progressed since beating Meath in the All-Ireland final replay in August.

Both teams are changed from that draw and replay, with Derry perhaps not as recognisable as their opponents.

PJ O’Mullan has arguably gathered a stronger, and possibly more experienced, panel of players than the one he had at his disposal last year.

Over the first two games, against Carlow and Cavan, he has given game-time to a lot of newcomers and I would expect him to field a very strong team for each of the remaining three games in the group.

O’Mullan’s aim is a league final, but it would be a disappointment to him and his team if they didn’t go through on top of the table.

They have conceded a goal in each of the two games, but the defence has generally been quite tight and Céat McEldowney and Megan Kerr are likely to come in here, with possibly Aoife Ní Chaiside back in her usual centre-of-the-defence role.

Alternatively, Kerr might come into a midfield role, while other newcomers such as Bríd Rogers and Jackie Donnelly have shown well in the last two games and they could start in Owenbeg.

A full Derry line-out would be a huge advantage as Meath are also coming into the game unbeaten, although their last game a fortnight ago was a draw with neighbours Westmeath. The same players who featured strongly in Croke Park and Clones are still leading the line.

Offaly (March 23) and Westmeath (March 30) are the other two teams Derry will face and both games are away from home, so a good performance, and of course a win, would really boost them.

Both Offaly and Westmeath are in action against the teams that Derry have already beaten and it will be a surprise if they do not remain unbeaten coming into those key games, with Cavan now probably already tuning into the final group game against Carlow as the one to win to remain in 2A.

Verdict Wins for Offaly, Westmeath and Derry

Division 2B, round five

Cork v Clare (Cork Camogie Grounds)

Wexford v Galway (Bunclody)

Kilkenny v Tipperary (UPMC Nowlan Park)

WEXFORD’S win over Cork was a bit of a surprise last weekend and that has thrown some uncertainty into the group.

Cork remain top alongside Tipperary and this weekend the Rebelettes face Clare, who have had just one win to date – a 0-13 to 0-9 win over Wexford.

Galway and Wexford have two wins each and therefore only the winner from their clash will have any chance of making the final in a fortnight.

Kilkenny, on one win, need to get something from their game with Tipperary to avoid the drop to 3B, while a win for Tipperary would secure a place in the league final.

Verdict Wins for Cork, Tipperary and Wexford and that would line up Cork and Tipperary in the decider.

Division 3A, round three

Armagh v Kildare (the BOX-IT Athletic Grounds)

Roscommon v Laois (Ballyforan)

ARMAGH produced a top-class performance at home in their opening game against Roscommon and will hope that home comforts help them overcome visitors Kildare this weekend.

They played well last week against Laois but were chasing the game after an early goal from the home side.

Kildare are a banana skin for them. The Lilywhites could well pack a punch despite losing both their games to date.

They lost by five points to Laois and then went down by two to Roscommon, who were stronger than when they met Armagh in round one with the addition of some of the players involved with the Mercy team that defeated St Mary’s, Magherafelt in the All-Ireland Lily Spence Cup final.

It won’t be an easy outing for Armagh, but it will probably tell them something about where they are in relation to winning some silverware this season.

Laois will be favourites to top the group with a win over Roscommon. However, there are no easy games in this group and it will make for interesting semi-finals no matter what combination comes out of these games.

Verdict Both games should go to the wire, with Armagh and Laois coming through

Division 4, round three

Wicklow v Mayo (Aughrim)

Louth v Tyrone (TBC)

TYRONE have played well over the past two Saturdays, particularly in the opening round against Mayo, who have been a bit of a bogey team for them in recent years. Admittedly they played both games at home.

This Saturday’s task looks to be an opportunity for the management to use the wider panel, with opponents Louth only having scored a goal and three points over their two games to date.

Wicklow, with home advantage, can really challenge Mayo. However if Tyrone, as expected, beat Louth, there can only be one outcome for the semi-finals and that is a repeat of this weekend’s games. Hence neither team might want to show their hand early.

Verdict Wins for Tyrone and Wicklow