Hurling & Camogie

Derry and Antrim face tough tasks as big guns travel north

A preview of all the weekend’s action in the All-Ireland camogie series

PJ O'Mullan celebrates Derry's All-Ireland replay victory over Meath in Clones. Picture by INPHO
Derry manager PJ O’Mullan will hope his side can build on their opening win over Antrim last weekend. Picture: Inpho

(all games Saturday, 2pm, unless stated)

Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship round two

Group 1

Antrim v Kilkenny (Corrigan Park)

Waterford v Limerick (Walsh Park)

Derry v Tipperary (Owenbeg)

THE two Ulster teams in Group 1 are both at home tomorrow. While each has a tough assignment, Derry should enter the game in Owenbeg with a much more positive attitude than Antrim will prepare for Kilkenny in Corrigan Park.

Derry got a huge boost from the outcome of their visit to Cushendall last weekend.

Not only did they pick up a victory that takes a lot of pressure off them, but they played extremely well against the team that had beaten them just a fortnight earlier in the Ulster final.

There was a ferocity and hunger in every tackle and, in the majority of cases, they came out with possession.

Also impressive was how they used that possession; the ball was played directly to hand and, if they needed to turn a defender, they pushed past with authority to break the line. Their shooting, a problem area in many of their games this season, was also top class.

If Derry can replicate that performance in Owenbeg, they can challenge the newly-crowned Division 1A champions. That league title was the Premier county’s first top-flight trophy in almost two decades.

However, there is a health warning. A couple of hours before Tipperary took to Croke Park in the middle of April, Derry lost the Division 2A  final to Westmeath and therefore, on league performances, they are ranked 13 positions lower than their opponents.

There is a steep challenge awaiting Derry, despite the Oak Leaf coming off their best performance for some time.

Tipperary came from behind last Saturday to shake off last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists Waterford, with the talismanic Cáit Devane back in the fold.

She wasn’t around for the successful league campaign, but returned after it and had a key role to play in Tipperary’s latest victory.

The likes of Eimear McGrath, Eimear Heffernan and Clodagh McIntyre all troubled Waterford’s defence, particularly during the last 20 minutes, to turn the game in their favour. They will do something similar to Derry’s defence.

PJ O’Mullan may not be looking for an unexpected victory against them, but if he sees the same kind of attitude as was on display in Cushendall last week, he should be pretty happy.

Kilkenny are much changed this season without the likes of Denise Gaule and they were less than impressive through their league campaign, where they won just two games. However, there were no cobwebs on them last weekend when they went down to Rathkeale and put Limerick to the sword, 1-19 to 0-4.

They should arrive into Corrigan Park with all guns blazing against an Antrim team that needs a decent result to get themselves lifted after defeat to Derry.

It’s not exactly that Corrigan offers Antrim much of an advantage. Their last appearance there was two seasons ago, when Limerick beat them to reach the All-Ireland knock-out stages.

The Saffrons need the same type of reaction to defeat as PJ O’Mullan got from his Derry charges after defeat in the Ulster final. Again, a victory might well be beyond the home team – but a decent performance would help them as they face into a trip to Tipp next weekend.

Neither Waterford nor Limerick had success last weekend. They are in action in the other group game. It will be a huge surprise if the Déise don’t power home in Walsh Park, with Niamh Rockett and Beth Carton both knocking over plenty of scores.

Verdict Clear cut wins for Waterford, Tipperary and Kilkenny

Group 2

Down v Cork (Páirc Esler, 1pm)

Wexford v Galway (Bellefield)

Dublin v Clare (St Peregrine’s, 4pm)

IF Derry and Antrim face huge challenges in their home games, these are small compared to what’s ahead of the longest serving of the Ulster counties at senior level in Páirc Esler.

Down face reigning champions Cork, who were comfortable 1-15 to 1-6 winners over Wexford last weekend.

Sorcha McCartan will be in the Cork forward line facing the team she helped bring into senior camogie in 2020.

But Sorcha should be the least of Down’s worries, with last season’s Player of the Year Amy O’Connor hitting seven points against Wexford and Katrina Mackey on the mark four times. Clodagh Finn came off the bench to score the Cork goal deep into added time.

It may sound patronising but Down played reasonably well against Clare last week and took a four-point lead at one stage. However, they couldn’t sustain that and, without a focal point in attack, will struggle to avoid a heavy defeat.

Galway travel across the country to Wexford, with Niamh Mallon now installed as their free-taker and go-to player.

Mallon was always a star forward up north with Down or Portaferry, but having rattled over three points in a 15-minute cameo in the league final and backed it up last Saturday with 10 points in the win over Dublin, she is now getting a wider recognition for her talents.

Her arrival may well have caused issues, as regular full-forward and twice AIB club Player of the Year Siobhán McGrath has withdrawn from the Galway panel and there was a disjointed appearance about their forward line last week.

Nevertheless, I can’t see Wexford causing them huge problems.

The third game later in the afternoon could be evenly-balanced. Clare are coming off a win over Down while Dublin, winners of Division 1B league, produced a decent performance against Galway.

Verdict Comfortable wins for Cork and Galway, but there could be a draw in St Peregrine’s.

Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship

Group 1, round one

Offaly v Clare (Banagher, 12.30pm)

Westmeath v Cork (TEG Cusack, 12.30pm)

Galway v Wexford (Carnmore)

AS Division 2A league champions, Westmeath will be one of the favourites to succeed Derry as All-Ireland intermediate champions. They are in a difficult enough group with newly relegated Offaly and reserve teams from four senior counties.

Cork is a tough enough start for them, but they are at home. This is an opportunity for them to put down a marker.

Galway usually feature fairly prominently in this championship and they will be a team to watch, while Offaly have the opener they would have wanted.

Verdict Three home wins

Group 2, round two

Meath v Carlow (Rathmoylan, 1pm)

Dublin v Kerry (St Peregrine’s)

Antrim v Kildare (TBC)

MEATH and Kerry both won last weekend and both are in a position to claim victories this weekend, although neither results will be as decisive as in the first round.

Both teams have aspirations of appearing in Croke Park in early August and anything other than clear-cut victories will be a disappointment.

Meanwhile last week’s result in Kerry proved that Antrim were out of their depths at this level. Kildare won’t be quite as ruthless, but they will win easily.

Verdict Wins for Kildare, Meath and Kerry

Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Premier Junior Camogie Championship round two

Group 1

Tyrone v Tipperary (Garvaghey)

Down v Wicklow (Páirc Esler, 3pm)

OF the four teams involved in Group 1 this weekend , only Tipperary recorded a victory last Saturday. Tyrone will remain competitive in this group, but are simply not at the level of last year’s beaten finalists.

The other game should be a lot more competitive and, even though Down failed to raise a single flag against Tipperary last Saturday, they can see off Wicklow and leave themselves in a decent position ahead of the Nancy Murray Cup draw.

Verdict Wins for Down and Tipperary

Group 2

Mayo v Cavan (Hastings Insurance McHale Park)

Limerick v Roscommon (Cappamore)

CAVAN can recover lost ground by coming out on top against a Mayo side that failed to perform against Limerick, while the closest game of the weekend should be in Rathkeale, where Limerick can pick up their second successive victory.

Verdict Wins for the more experienced trio of Laois, Cavan and Limerick