Antrim hope to carry good form in All-Ireland semi-final and topple Tribe
All-Ireland Intermediate Championship semi-finals: Antrim v Galway (tomorrow, Clones, 5pm)
THE ANTRIM management will have been pleased enough with how their charges performed in last week's quarter-final against Kerry. The defence was as tight as it has been all season and the forwards pulled the Kerry back-line apart to score 5-19 with six starters and two subs all contributing to the score-board.
However, as they well know, that performance will count for nothing as they take on the team many outside Ulster have been tipping for the title.
Antrim met Galway in the National League quarter-final in Ashbourne in June, a game the Saffrons won by 1-13 to 1-10 – but it could well have gone against them.
Galway made life fairly difficult for the Ulster team especially in the first half and it took a goal from Maeve Kelly to keep Antrim in touch as the movement of Ava Lynskey at centre-forward and Áine Keane in the corner opened them up on a quite a few occasions.
Other Galway players impressed in that game – Rachel Hannify and Lisa Casserly in defence and Caoimhe Maher was a class act as sweeper. But Galway wasted a few scoring opportunities at key points of the game while Antrim took their scores when they came.
Galway contested the intermediate decider in 2019 and were very annoyed last year when reserve teams were excluded from competition. They didn't quite manage to strengthen that point on the field of play in the league – but they will put up a stout challenge in Clones.
However, Antrim are maturing as a team, especially in the forward line which last year – and even in the league in early summer – were blowing hot and cold.
Over that period Maeve Kelly was the one consistent performer with others maybe shining in one match, but not really a feature during the next. The talent was obvious, but often the performances did not match the talent.
The arrival of Áine Magill has helped. Still a minor, the Dunloy winger has fierce pace and can carry the sliotar at defences. She made her debut against Kilkenny firing home four points and she has made a significant contribution in the games since adding another dimension to the forward play.
Down manager Derek Dunne made the point during the week that Antrim had a better chance of beating Galway in the semi-final in Clones than in the Croke Park cauldron with the county's senior team likely to be contesting the O'Duffy Cup later in the afternoon.
It is a tough draw for Antrim with the winners likely to be favourites for the final. The Saffrons will probably field a stronger team than in the league quarter-final and they will still need a few breaks to get over the line.
Both Meath and Kilkenny needed big performances in their last games to progress in the competition and both achieved them to set up their meeting at Nowlan Park tomorrow (2pm).
Kilkenny needed to beat table-toppers Cork to make it through the group or else they were gone. Not only did they beat Cork, but they topped the group that also included Antrim and consequently got a bye into the semi-finals.
Meath came second in their group and went into last Sunday's quarter-final with Derry under the radar. However they got the bounce on their opponents early in the game and stayed in front right to the end.
A decent start could help either team establish control of this semi-final. But having watched both teams in action against Antrim this year, Kilkenny look to have the greater potential.