By Shaun Casey
THERE’S a league final up for grabs this weekend for Antrim, and their boss Elaine Dowds believes that home advantage could just swing it in their favour. They take on Wexford in Portglenone on Saturday, and the winner will take on Waterford in the final.
“Wexford this weekend is a massive game,” said Dowds. “We’re always looking for a performance and a win but ultimately this weekend decides who competes in the league final, so it’s all to play for.
“Having the game in Portglenone suits us as we’re familiar with it, having played there a good few times the last couple of years.
“We know the changing rooms; we know the surface and the space on the pitch. It would be fantastic to get a big home crowd behind us, it makes all the difference.
“All the games have been tough in different ways, but we’ve had to stand up and play at that standard and raise the level of our performances from last year.
“It’s been challenging but rewarding and we’ve pulled some great performances out of the bag so far.”
Antrim have only lost once in the entire campaign, to Waterford in the last round, and even in defeat, Dowds was proud of the effort her side put in.
“We knew the Waterford game would be our biggest challenge in the league, they’ve come off the back of an All-Ireland semi-final, and they’ve clocked up some big score lines in the league so far.
“They have a very confident and assured system of play, and they know each other inside out. They hit us hard in the first half and to be honest that game could have really got away from us, but we dug in and brought it back to three points.
“A five-point defeat isn’t anything to be ashamed off, but that game gave us plenty to think about and work on,” added Dowds.
“If there’s something to take from that game, it would be to try and just stick with a team when they’re going through a really good spell in the game and try to keep what they score to a minimum. We always hit a purple patch ourselves and that’s when to hit them hard and take advantage of every scoring opportunity we get and just be as clinical as possible.”
Antrim have struck more goals than any other team in the division, hitting the net ten times in their last four outings.
“Team play and forward play is something we do work on at training but I think that the number of goals we’ve scored so far comes from the natural killer instinct that some of our players have in front of the net.
“We’ve always kind of emphasised taking points if they’re on, at the start of a game to help us settle but the likes of Caitrin (Dobbin), Aine (Magill) and Roisin (McCormack) naturally go to net if they see space in front of them or they see any opportunity for a goal. I hope we keep creating those opportunities and taking them.”