Hurling and camogie

Big test for Down camogs against Wexford who still pack a punch

Derek Dunne knows his Down charges will have to be on their guard against Wexford
Séamas McAleenan

Littlewoods Ireland Division Two League semi-finals: Donaghmore, Ashbourne : Down v Wexford (Saturday, Ashbourne, 5pm)

THIS will be a good test for Down and one that they need to be at the top of their game to come through.

While other teams, such as Meath and Westmeath, have come down from Division One a little deflated, Wexford have still got the players who can deliver at the top level. Their problem over the past few years was that many of those players were not turning out for the Purple and Gold and a couple of seasons ago they failed to field in a Division One league game.

Morale was low then. But now with better commitment and the run of results that they have had in the lower grade, they are flying high – best summed up by the score-lines in their last two games – 7-19 to 1-9 against Laois and then 2-23 to 1-5 against Westmeath at the weekend.

They are clear favourites not just for this game, but to win Division Two and re-enter the senior championship next month with a great chance of making progress towards bringing the county back to where it was a decade ago as three-in-a-row All-Ireland senior champions.

Only Katie Parrock remains from those winning teams. She has returned from a few years playing soccer to present a huge problem at full-forward and scored 2-3 against Westmeath.

For Down it will be a taste of a senior championship level opponent and Down pushed for that last January when they asked Ardchomhairle to allow them into the O’Duffy Cup.

They chose to use the league to find more depth in their panel and rested players in some of the games; even in the quarter-final against Cork Danielle Harrison and Lauren Clarke were kept back as they had small injuries.

The players who have come into the team were generally around the panel last year – except for the Savage sisters from Ballygalget with Deirbhile starting each game and playing well either at midfield or half-forward.

A late addition to the panel was Anna Rogan, who impressed enough to get in for the last 20 minutes as a substitute against Cork and the Castlewellan girl grabbed a super late point.

Against Wexford Down need to be at full-strength and operating a lot sharper than in the three previous games when they went missing for short periods.

They also need to have Niamh Mallon gaining possession inside their opponents’ scoring area and heading for the net. Last week Mallon hit six points, each time gaining possession with her back to the target, moving round in an arc and picking off the score.

Given Wexford’s current form and even potential for improvement now that they have all hands on deck, the Yellow-Bellies start as firm favourites.

If Derek Dunne can get a full performance out of his team he might be happy enough whatever the final score-line tells.

Verdict: Wexford, but not with on a similar score-line to the past few.

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Hurling and camogie