Hurling & Camogie

Plenty of jeopardy in final round of matches in All-Ireland senior camogie championship

Antrim face a relegation clash with Limerick, while Derry take on Wexford

Caitrin Dobbin
Antrim’s Caitrín Dobbin will be a big threat to Limerick’s hopes of staying in the senior championship. PICTURE: INPHO (©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo/©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo )

Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Group 1, round five (Saturday, 4pm)

Limerick v Antrim (Rathkeale)

Tipperary v Kilkenny (The Ragg)

Waterford v Derry (Walsh Park)

ALL three games on Saturday carry significance. While both Tipperary and Kilkenny are guaranteed places in next month’s knock-out stages, their clash at The Ragg will decide who picks up the automatic semi-final slot.

Tipperary just need to draw to make the cut, but Kilkenny’s form has been impressive, the daw with Waterford their only slip to date.

Two wins from five outings at the start of the year in the league had suggested that the retirement of Denise Gaule and a couple of other experienced players was taking its toll on the 15-times champions.

However they are far from aninexperienced group and once again they look like championship contenders.

Tipperary got a shot in the arm from winning the league back in April. The addition of Cáit Devane for the championship has added to their overall panel strength and they won’t be easily knocked off top.

The third of the knock-out places is still up for grabs, although last year’s beaten finalists Waterford are very much favourites to make the cut at the expense of Derry.

Results last weekend in Loughgiel and in Kilkenny suggest that Derry still have a distance to travel before they can compete against teams who set out at the start of competition with the intention of winning it.

Waterford still depend too much on the supremely talented Beth Carton for scores. She scored 11 points against Antrim in Loughgiel, only four of which came from placed balls; some of those points were a delight to watch.

Máiréad O’Brien has scored a goal in each championship game this season, a first-half strike last week bringing the dual player’s tally to six in four outings.

While Derry have done well against Antrim and Limerick, their scoring difference plummeted to minus-30 from the Tipperary and Kilkenny games.

The concession of a goal in the first 40 seconds last week hit them hard and getting a decent result in Waterford will be their focus rather than the win that could take them through to the knock-outs for the first time.

Derry are, however, safe for another season in the top flight. Antrim are not, and they face a difficult away trip to Rathkeale to stay afloat for a fourth season in the senior championship.

Their only solace ahead of the game is that opponents Limerick have a worse scoring difference and need the win to stay up, while a draw would do the Saffrons.

Although Antrim had very little preparation pre- season, they managed to beat Limerick in Ballycastle in the league and comfortably survived. Although they have since won back the Ulster title, that was their only win since that win over the Treaty on March 23.

Limerick won their last game of the league, a dead-rubber outing with Wexford, but, like their opponents, have had to suffer a few heavy defeats over the last four championship games.

Both sides have conceded 13 goals in championship. Limerick, though, are yet to raise a green flag, while Antrim scored one through Caitrín Dobbin last week and two more against Derry at the end of May.

Forwards of the calibre of Dobbin, Róisín McCormick and Maeve Kelly provide that goal threat for Antrim, while Caoimhe Costelloe and Caoimhe Lyons rarely get inside the cover for goals.

An early goal would settle Antrim and allow them to chip away at Limerick’s confidence. But this is a difficult game for the Ulster champions with the trap-door open for the loser.

It would be a pity if Antrim’s hard work over the past five seasons was undone by off-the-field issues that didn’t give them the settled start that they have had to previous campaigns.

Verdict Waterford will win, but the other two games could go either way. Hopefully Antrim edge home – or at least hold out for a draw.