By Niall Gartland
INJURY-STRUCK Antrim Juniors will duke it out with a rapidly improving Cavan side for the Ulster Intermediate title this weekend.
Antrim Juniors won last year’s All-Ireland Junior title in style with a 5-5 to 0-14 victory over Armagh, but a number of key players are injured while others have made the step up to the senior ranks.
However, they can call upon the hero of last year’s All-Ireland final, Dervla Cosgrove, who scored four goals in the space of a few minutes against Armagh at Croke Park.
More recently they were pipped in the league final by Clare, and their manager Brian Kearney is concerned that their overall strength has been negated in recent months.
“We did well in the league and got to the final against Clare. It could’ve gone either way, we were beaten by a point in the end. Personally I thought we were done by the referee, but it was a tight match.
“We’ve been going well but we’ve had a couple of drop offs and serious injuries. Our captain Sinead Cosgrove is a big miss for us at full-back, she broke her collarbone and she’ll be out for the year. Last year’s captain Maria MacLarnon has a broken hand. We’re not really in great shape going into this weekend’s match to be honest with you.
“We’ve limited numbers, we’ve lost a lot of players to the senior team so we’re a younger group than last year.”
Meanwhile, Philip Brady is in his second season in charge of Cavan and they’re continuing to make big strides on the field of play. They were promoted to Division Two last season, a not inconsiderable achievement and they managed to stay up with a strong league campaign.
Unlike Antrim Juniors, who received a bye to this weekend’s Ulster, they played in an Ulster Championship semi-final clash against Armagh last weekend, edging a classic encounter by a point.
“We were very pleased as Armagh are very strong and are possibly the favourites for the All-Ireland Junior championship. It was great to get out on the right side of it and good to get another match as we took a lot of time off after the national league as there was a huge break. We only had two trainings done before the Armagh match. We’re easing our way back into it.”
Asked what’s been behind Cavan’s surge on the inter-county camogie front, Brady said: “We’ve made huge strides, this is a fifth year back for Cavan camogie. To be playing at such a high level is a huge achievement and it’s a great credit to the girls.
“I think camogie has always been strong enough in Cavan. The difficulty is that we’ve been competing with the football and we’re still missing seven or eight girls who’d be fit for the starting team. There’s just great talent there, we’ve low numbers but the quality of the girls is just phenomenal. We have great players and we’re very lucky to have them.”