Football

Antrim look to continue stellar year as they meet Clare in All-Ireland last-four clash

Antrim swept Monaghan aside to reach the semi-finals of the All-Ireland IFC, where they face Clare on Sunday Picture by Mark Marlow
Antrim swept Monaghan aside to reach the semi-finals of the All-Ireland IFC, where they face Clare on Sunday Picture by Mark Marlow

TG4 All-Ireland Ladies' IFC semi-finals (Sunday, live on YouTube Sport TG4)

Antrim v Clare (Glennon Bros Pearse Park, 2pm)

Wexford v Kildare (Parnell Park, 4pm)

THERE seems to be no stopping the Antrim juggernaut as the Ulster champions prepare to take on Clare in tomorrow’s All-Ireland intermediate semi-final in Longford.

With virtually every kick of the ball in this year’s provincial and All-Ireland campaigns, the Saffrons have rewritten the history books, new chapter after new chapter.

Not content with just recording their first-ever win at an intermediate level, with victory over Monaghan in the Ulster championship, they went onto win the provincial title, defeating Tyrone, and in reaching the last four of the All-Ireland, they have put former senior teams Westmeath and Monaghan, again, to the sword.

They now come up against Clare, another former senior inter-county team, and winners of the All-Ireland intermediate title in 2009 and finalists back in 2016.

This is, without doubt, the biggest challenge yet for Emma Kelly’s charges but one thing is for sure – they will certainly not fear their opponents and with nothing to lose they will throw everything at the Munster side.

Antrim will be on the Clare radar – they know they possess huge firepower and threat with Orlaith Prenter, Grainne McLaughlin, Theresa Mellon, Cathy Carey in the forward line, Lara Dahunsi and Aine Tubridy in midfield and Sara O’Neill and Ciara Brown attacking from the half-back line.

Clare are a very experienced side and they will have their homework done and will be out to ensure they don’t fall foul of the new kids on the block.

They reached last year’s semi-final, losing to eventual winners Laois after extra-time. This year, they were in the same qualifying group as Tyrone, finishing top of the table by way of a better scoring difference over the Red Hands, and then came through the quarter-finals with a good win over Westmeath, 3-14 to 3-8, with Fidelma Marrinan hitting 2-9 and players like Aisling Reidy and Chloe Moloney impressing.

Whatever happens tomorrow, Antrim will look back on this season as hugely successful, perhaps beyond their wildest expectations and a good foundation has been laid to build on for next year. This game may be a step too far but at the same time, write off the Saffrons at your peril.

In the other semi-final, Kildare and Wexford meet yet again.

The Lilywhites are back-to-back Leinster champions, defeating Wexford in both finals, and one of the favourites for this title.

They have enjoyed a successful 2023 so far, winning the Division Three league title, beating Clare in the final.

Wexford, however, are battle-hardened championship campaigners and have contested the last two All-Ireland finals at this level.

They have not managed to get over the final hurdle and will want to get back to Croke Park for a third successive year to try and finally break down that door into senior football.