Antrim's Duana Coleman believes the county is reaping the rewards from a good development structure

Antrim defender Duana Coleman
Antrim defender Duana Coleman

ANTRIM defender Duana Coleman says the county’s recent success on the senior front has not just come overnight but has come from the fruits of hard work over the last number of years. 

Coleman will hope to do her job and keep Clare’s forwards at bay when the sides meet in Sunday’s All-Ireland intermediate semi-final in Longford. 

The Ulster champions, who won their first-ever intermediate provincial title this year, find themselves just 60 minutes away from an All-Ireland final appearance. 

Since their junior success last August they have not looked back, finally winning the Division Four league title to break out of the bottom tier and have now taken the intermediate championship by storm, reaching the last four unbeaten with group victories over Westmeath and Longford and a quarter-final win last day out over Monaghan.  

“Over the past two years, we have played in two All-Ireland finals and won the junior All-Ireland last year. Added to gaining that experience as a team, the depth of the squad has grown in strength over the past two years. This didn’t happen by accident,” said Coleman. 

“Antrim has been working to improve its structures at juvenile since I was under 14. Decisions made then about the approach to player development and the process employed to identify and involve players from a wider variety of clubs are bearing fruit now.  

“This year, the likes of Carla McKenna from my own club, Pádraig Sáirséil, Bláithín Ní Cathail from Gort na Móna, Raicheal Mulholland from Lámh Dhearg and Ana Mulholland from Glenavy have all have joined the senior set-up from last year’s strong minor panel. 

“On top of this, the approach taken in recent years to support the development of the senior team shows Antrim are serious about success in ladies’ football. Added to the experienced management team of Emma [Kelly] and Kyla [Trainor], we now have a dedicated physio and a sports psychologist,” added the corner-back. 

That hard work at underage level just last week reaped rewards when the U16 team won the All-Ireland C title, no doubt encouraged and inspired by Coleman and her Saffron team-mates.  

“It’s great to be able to inspire young girls to play sport and to continue to progress,” added Coleman. 

“Being a county footballer along with Carla McKenna in my club has been great for the young girls coming through to look up to. The support from our club management and its juveniles has been immense. It felt like Carla and I had our fan club at the Monaghan game. 

“The U16 team, those girls worked hard and it’s great to see that there is a bright future ahead for Antrim.”

It’s hard to fathom that Coleman is only 20 going by those words, but her love for Antrim football is clear and she is relishing the opportunities before them right now. 

“We have worked hard to get here this year and it will be a challenging opportunity for us to test ourselves while also proving that we deserve to be at this level,” she said.

“Clare is a team we have not competed against yet. It will be interesting to see how it plays out, however we are a very close unit and together we have nothing to fear.  

“We have demonstrated our strength this year even when everyone doubted our ability. We have taken every challenge in our stride, and we have nothing to lose going into this semi-final. 

“Throughout the year we have been very focused, and we have proved we deserve to be at the top level.”