Hurling & Camogie

Derry’s Áine Barton ready for ultimate Ulster final test against Antrim

The sides meet this Sunday for provincial silverware

Áine Barton
Áine Barton scored eight points in Derry's semi-final win over Down (SYSTEM)

AFTER scoring eight points as Derry dethroned champions Down in Owenbeg in the Ulster senior semi-final on April 28, Áine Barton is looking forward to challenging Antrim in this weekend’s final.

It is a first foray into senior championship territory for the current Oak Leaf team, but Barton is relishing pitting her wits against the best Ulster had to offer, having seen off the Mourne county 1-15 to 0-5 in that semi.

“Down and Antrim have gone up to senior level in league and championship and are maintaining that level,” she said.

“Winning the intermediate last year put us up a grade in the championship and we really want to measure ourselves against Division One teams.

“We are looking forward to playing Antrim. Our game last year against them in Portglenone gave us a lot of confidence for the intermediate championship – even though we lost it.”

When the counties met at the semi-final stage this time last year, Derry came into the game as rank outsiders after a less than inspiring Division Two campaign. But they really put it up to the holders and were decidedly unlucky to lose by a point.

“We went on from there to win the All-Ireland. That game gave us a great lift,” said the Magherafelt-based primary school teacher.

Losing the Division Two final to Westmeath four weeks ago in Croke Park was a setback to the Oak Leaf panel, although they did register 16 points to take some positives from the game.

“The defeat to Westmeath was tough to take and it wasn’t easy turning that around in the fortnight before the Down game,” said Barton.

“But the girls all put their heads down and we put in a good bit of work.

“We knew that Down would be hard-hitting. They have played in Division One for the last three years and in the senior championship as well and you have to be tough to stay up at that level.

“They were similar in many ways to Westmeath. Although the semi-final ended up a comfortable win, it was still a good challenge for us.”

However the Ballinascreen forward said that the focus was on improving their own game rather, than on how to deal with the opposition.

“We wanted to improve on things that didn’t go well in Croke Park,” she said.

“We are still hitting a lot of wides. The semi-final wasn’t as bad as against Westmeath. But I think that it’s still a positive that we are going for the shot when the chance presents itself.

“There were new players in our forward line against Down, we were looking at players in different positions. So girls need time to build confidence playing to a different format and it would have been a surprise if everything had gone well.

“There were some things that worked well, others we needed to look at.

“Hopefully against Antrim we can further reduce the number of wides and increase the scores from the chances we are creating.”

Derry out-scored Down 0-7 to 0-1 in the first quarter of the semi, but then added just a goal to that tally before half-time, and Barton would like to see the side keep their foot down when in the ascendancy.

“It would be great if we could build that early momentum every day and then maintain that intensity for the rest of the game,” she said.

“We are a work in progress and there are a lot of things we want to improve. We learn from each game, from our mistakes and also the things that work well.

“We can’t afford to make mistakes against Antrim, we know they will punish them.”