Final spot within the Saffrons’ own grasp says Patterson

By Michael McMullan

ANTRIM camogs travel to Dublin on Saturday knowing a spot in the Division 1B final is within reach.

For Colleen Patterson, she feels their battle with Limerick last weekend will stand them instead against the Dubs.

After trailing by eight points at one stage in the first half, Antrim were four adrift by half-time before pulling clear for victory.

It was followed by Monday’s ratification of management duo Carl McCormick and Martin Coulter, the latest move in stabilising the camp.

Elaine Dowds was replaced as manager by Brian Kearney and Mark McFadden after the 2023 season. The duo stepped down before this season’s opener with Down.

Numbers were sparse and with a host of key players missing, Antrim were on the wrong end of a 52-point trimming against Wexford.

Should Antrim pick up a third victory in succession on Saturday, they’ll face Wexford in the decider, something unlikely a matter of weeks earlier.

“We’ve drawn a line under that,” Patterson said of the heavy defeat and spell of uncertainty around the management change.

“I think we just tried to redirect our focus towards the rest of the season. There’s a core seven or eight group of seniors that have been around for the last number of years that have kept together.”

It was a resilience that helped turn around the Limerick game but they know what is coming down the tracks. Dublin is often a pre-season challenge game for Antrim to expose them to the physicality of the inter-county scene.

Star forward Róisín McCormick also has a handle on camogie in the city with her time playing with TU Dublin on the college scene.

“It will be an incredibly tough game, but I think the feeling in the camp is that we know the talent is there,” Patterson said looking ahead to Saturday.

“It’s just a matter of trying to click and breaking down their runners as such. So I do think it’ll be very, very tight, but I think it is definitely achievable.

“It’s mad because, honestly, at the start of this year, if you asked me if we were going to get to the league final, I think none of us would have said yes.

“It’s good that it’s turned around and it’s just a credit to the girls that have kept at it.”

Patterson, with the experience banked from 13 years of senior camogie, knows the lie of the land better than most. The last “three or four” seasons are the best she has tasted. And she hopes for more.

The management are working with players around their commitments. The door is open for whoever wants to put a shoulder to the wheel. Underage players have fused into the setup along with players from the intermediate team.

“Then you’ve got the return of Maeve Kelly, her name just speaks for itself,” Patterson added.

“Maeve is an absolute workhorse and we’re delighted to have her back. Annie Lynn as well, she’s an absolute threat for Loughgiel.

“For various reasons, she’s never really been able to commit to county. But she’s on board now and players like that coming on board really, really helps strengthen, especially the forward line.

“We have a forward line that any county would envy, in my opinion. I hate marking them,” Patterson added.

“We’re in stage still of like rebuilding, if that makes sense. There has been a lot of change, but we just have to try to look at it in a good way and build on what we have at the minute.”

A win on Saturday would be another important step.

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