Down and Fermanagh can book places in All-Ireland JFC semi-finals

Laura Grew has found her form for Fermanagh as they chase an All-Ireland junior title
Laura Grew has found her form for Fermanagh as they chase an All-Ireland junior title


Group B

Fermanagh v London (Saturday, Donagh, 1pm)

Carlow v Derry (Sunday, Netwatch Cullen Park, 2pm)

FERMANAGH manager James Daly believes his players are finding their form at the right time as they prepare to host London tomorrow hoping to book their place in the semi-finals of the All-Ireland junior championship.

It is a top-of-the-table clash, both sides having won their round one games against Carlow and Derry. With Fermanagh and Carlow favourites to progress from the group to the knockout stages, London’s win over Derry will be a massive confidence boost and they know they go into this game with their hopes still very much alive.

Whoever comes out on top will have guaranteed their place in the semi-finals with still one group game remaining.

Fermanagh go in as favourites but that’s something Daly does not consider knowing that London will provide a stiff test with so much for both teams to play for.

“We feel like we are in a good place, and we are ready for the challenge. A lot of players are really finding the right form at the right time for us. Blaithin Bogue, Laura Grew, the Maguires, they are really finding form for us now and then leaders like Molly [McGloin], Courteney [Murphy], Shannan [McQuade], Sara [Britton] – all players who have done a great job for us over the years.

‘‘It’s a big game but we are confident,” said Daly.

The win over Carlow was massive, according to the Fermanagh boss, who rated the Leinster side as the strongest in the group.

Meanwhile, pride is the main aim for Derry when they face Carlow on Sunday.

While the Oak Leaf are not completely out of the reckoning to reach the knock-out stages, a second successive defeat will end their championship hopes with Fermanagh still to play in the final game next weekend.

The All-Ireland junior competition began two weeks ago with all eight teams that make up the two groups in action before a week’s break and now they will play the next two rounds on successive weekends.

Derry lost to London in Ruislip 2-12 to 1-4, while Carlow were defeated by Fermanagh 1-13 to 0-9 in the first round.

The Leinster side, who are favourites, will be keen to bounce back from that defeat and pick up the three points here and get their hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals back on track ahead of their final game against London.

If Derry were to cause an upset and come away with a win, their own hopes of a place in the semi-finals would remain as well, so there is plenty at stake.

Derry will try to keep Carlow out of the scoring zone and defensively they can be difficult to break down as they get numbers back but where they are turned over as they go on attack, leaving holes in the back lines is where they can be punished while at the other end they have struggled for scores.

They have nothing to lose, though, and this game will give them an idea of where they are as a junior team and the standard they need to try and reach over the next few years.

Group A

Down v Kilkenny (Sunday, Páirc Esler, 2pm)

ULSTER champions Down can book their place in the semi-finals with victory over Kilkenny on Sunday.

The Mourne county will start this game as overwhelming favourites. Peter Lynch and Caoibhe Sloan’s side will be expected to win, the question posed will be by how much, with no disrespect to Kilkenny.

They have not featured as an inter-county side since 2018, so their return to the fray this year has been welcomed but it will take time for them to develop and become competitive.

Down occupy second place in the table, level on points with Limerick, but below them by way of an inferior scoring difference. Both recorded opening round wins over Sligo and Kilkenny respectively. Limerick hit 7-21 against Kilkenny while Down had to withstand a late fightback from Sligo but held on to win 1-13 to 2-5, after leading 1-11 to 0-1 with 10 minutes remaining.

No doubt that game will serve to remind Lynch and Sloan and their players that even with a commanding lead the game is not over until the final whistle and every team will have their purple patch.

It will also help them stay grounded and not let complacency set in, knowing there is a job to do and their fate is very much in their own hands.

Their final game next week against Limerick, if results this weekend go as expected, will decide who finishes top of the table.