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Caldwell's Model marking job helped send Down into league showdown with Antrim

Caitriona Caldwell's marking job on Wexford attacking star Katrina Parrock played a big part in Down's victory in the sides' Division Two semi-final Picture: Brendan Monaghan
By Seamas McAleenan

Littlewoods Ireland League Division Two final

KATRINA Parrock is the danger player for Wexford. The All-Ireland senior medallist had hit the net in every game since her return to the team this season after a stint at soccer. She did so again in the sixth minute of Saturday's Division Two league semi-final against Down.

It put her team 1-4 to 0-1 ahead and apparently on their way to another high-scoring victory. But things didn't fall into place as they had in previous games and Down stepped up a gear to take Wexford out on a 0-18 to 2-10 scoreline and set up a league final with old rivals Antrim this weekend.

Cáitríona Caldwell had been assigned the marking job on Parrock.

“We usually have a good chat before each game on who is marking whom and I was given Katrina. It took me a while to work out her style. She was really strong and dangerous, but it went alright after that," said Caldwell.

“I think it had as much to do with the supply of the ball. That wasn't happening for the first 10 minutes. By the first water break we had worked it out and had cut out the danger down the middle. So the midfielders and the half-backs, half-forwards did the hard work.”

But the Castlewellan defender admits that it was still a nervous final few moments for Down.

“They got a goal to level it. You just could not lose concentration at all in that game and it was the type of game we need," she said.

“The pace was up on other games we have played and if we are going to do something in the (senior) championship next month, we need those games.”

A dual player right through the grades at club level, Caldwell sees camogie moving a lot closer to the big ball game in regard to tactics.

“Our game has changed a lot over the last couple of seasons. Forwards funnel back to cover defenders and you have players moving off the shoulder when you get possession. For the footballers in the panel, that was easy, but the camogie-only players had to work harder to get it right.

“Our game is a lot more organised now than say 2018 when we reached the All-Ireland intermediate final. That is why we were able to take what Wexford offered at the start of the semi-final and find a way to counter-act it so that we were playing on the front foot.”

The gritty Town defender also points to the performance of Catherine McGourty in goals.

“McGourty is constantly talking, keeping you right. She made a great save from a penalty (taken by Parrock) and made several other saves which is very inspirational. That gives you a lot of confidence too.”

Caldwell has also hailed the arrival of Castlewellan club-mate Anna Rogan into the county panel as a real boost for the Mourne girls.

“Anna was the best player of her age group coming through. She made the Down senior panel at 17 well before me. But she has been in England at university," said Caldwell.

“This year she is at home and tried out for the junior team. Derek (Dunne) liked what he saw and she is now doing well with the seniors.

“We have gone past the idea that 15 players win a game for us. We talk in terms of the panel and the more quality players we can bring into the panel, the better it is for the team.”

Just like last December's All-Ireland intermediate championship final, Antrim now lie between Down and a league trophy and Caldwell believes it will be another tough test.

“Antrim are a really good team. It was no surprise that they beat us in the first game this year and are unbeaten since.

“Probably the only thing that surprised me was that we won the final so comfortably last December. It should be a lot closer this weekend.”

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