Hurling and camogie

Antrim's Niamh Donnelly looks forward to facing Down again

Niamh Donnelly of Antrim (right) against Down in last year's All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Final.
©INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Seamas McAleenan

Ulster Senior championship final

Saturday July 10th 3pm PearseOg Park, Armagh

Antrim v Down

NIAMH Donnelly is looking forward to another final against Down, despite the previous two results going against the Ballycastle defender and her Antrim team-mates.

Down have beaten Antrim in both the All-Ireland Intermediate final last December and more recently in the Littlewoods Ireland Division Two final.

“I am looking forward to the Ulster final, I think all the Antrim players are. You want to be playing in finals all the time with your club, with your county. The more times you reach a final, the better your chances of winning one.”

Donnelly has led both her club and county out on senior finals’ day but still has to get her hands on silverware.

“Yes, it is frustrating when you don’t get to win finals. But it is more frustrating when your team is not in the running for finals. I had plenty of those days over the years.”

Turning to those recent final defeats against SATURDAY’S opponents, Donnelly is adamant that the Saffrons aren’t too far off Down who will play in the senior All-Ireland championship seven days after the Ulster final.

“We were bitterly disappointed in our performance in the Intermediate final last December. We knew we were a lot better than the score-line indicated and we were determined to show up better in the opening league game against Down.”

Antrim actually won that opening game in mid-May curtesy of a late goal from Caitrín Dobbin.

“After that it wasn’t a huge surprise to us that we went all the way to the league final. But again we were disappointed with our first half in Owenbeg.”

The Saffrons trailed by 2-6 to 0-6 at the interval in the Division Two decider, but bounced back to draw level towards the end only for Down to respond with a late winning goal.

“Our second half was a lot better than our first and proved that we could match Down. Our goal is to beat them in a final and we believe that we will do that sooner rather than later.”

Having lost an Intermediate All-Ireland final to Down last year, Antrim’s focus perhaps lies beyond this weekend.

“We are glad to get these Ulster championship games in the run in to the start of the Intermediate championship at the end of the month. These games are away better than training and it gives the management the chance to look at other players,”claimed the PE teacher who has just complete a year post in St Patrick’s Maghera.

“Because of injuries we were forced into changes during the league. Players got a chance in the team and our panel is the better because of it.

“Last Saturday against Derry we had players getting game time that hadn’t played a lot in the league. We want to be improving as a panel and playing right through to September. No team wins an All-Ireland with just 15 players.

“These games against Down are a great standard and I know they are making us better all the time.”

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Hurling and camogie