Hurling and camogie

Dowds reflects on Antrim journey as Saffrons target senior survival

REPRO FREE***PRESS RELEASE NO REPRODUCTION FEE*** EDITORIAL USE ONLY Glen Dimplex Senior All-Ireland Championship, Dunloy, Antrim 25/6/2022 Antrim vs Galway Antrim manager Elaine Dowds Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/John McVitty
Séamas McAleenan

ANTRIM manager Elaine Dowds was in reflective mood following her side's defeat to Galway in their Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Championship clash in Dunloy at the weekend, looking back on the last two games that saw her charges face the All-Ireland champions of the past three seasons.

“If we had been told at the start of the year, coming up from intermediate that we would have held Kilkenny to six points, I think that I would have taken that alright.

“But after we played them, we felt a bit disappointed because, while we matched their intensity at times, we just didn't totally capitalise on a couple of chances or made a mistake that cost us a score.

“Yesterday, I just felt that Galway were on a different level to Kilkenny even. If we made any mistake we were punished. They were clinical and defensively they are so good. Personally I think their defence is the best around at the minute.

“And yet in the first half against the breeze, we ran at them a few times, got scores, missed a few. We didn't manage to do the same in the second half, to break the tackle and get a run at them. So I am a bit disappointed to lose by 16 or 17 points, but you have to remember that we are learning.

“If you look at our games last year, we made mistakes and we recovered. The first ten minutes of the All-Ireland final is a good example and we won that game easily – once we got through that early patch.”

The Dunloy woman is also keeping an eye on the progress of the junior team that ran Armagh to two points in the earlier game on Saturday.

“There is real progress there. Armagh are an experienced team that was in Croke Park last year and beat them handily in the Ulster final in May. But you can see the progress in that short time since the Ulster final.

“They have a great chance still of making the semi-finals. That would be great for us as a county because you look at the strength of the Galway senior bench, a lot of experienced players, top-class players wanting to come on.

“We need to build a senior bench that is as strong as the top counties and we will do that if we get young players performing at a good level in the Junior team.”

Although it was generally acknowledged that Antrim's first season in the senior championship would come down to the final group game, Dowds maintains that management has not looked at the strengths and weaknesses of the Limerick team that will arrive in Corrigan Park on Saturday afternoon.

“We had to look at each team as they came up. We are new at this level and had a lot to work on for every team.

“Results in this group puzzle me. We beat Offaly fairly comfortably in the opening game and next thing Limerick has home venue and just squeezes past them. Then on Saturday they beat Down, a team that held us to a draw!

“They are coming to us on the back of two wins. We want to be in the quarter-finals, but we have to beat an improving team.

“I don't think that we will have a hang-over from the Galway game. We tend to bounce back fairly quickly. We are quite resilient that way. We need to be because Limerick is a big challenge.”

It will be the first game high profile camogie game since Corrigan Park was renovated and Dowds is hoping that it draws crowds similar to those who got behind the hurlers and footballers at the venue to make it uncomfortable for visiting teams.

“It is an attractive double-header on Saturday with the juniors going for a place in the All-Ireland semi-final and ourselves looking to get into the knock-out stages as well.

“I would love to see a big crowd come along and cheer us on. Players get a great lift when the crowd gets behind them. Just think about Croke Park last September.”

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