BY KIERAN LYNCH
LAST year’s All-Ireland Junior champions Antrim are intent on showing that they can mix it with the best at Intermediate grade, and after a winning start to their Ulster campaign, they will be hoping to do that once again when they face Tyrone on Sunday.
Last weekend, the Saffrons claimed a statement win over Monaghan, with a 3-12 to 1-13 victory. Last season, Monaghan played at Senior grade and Antrim played at Junior grade, so the win was an indication of how much progress Emma Kelly’s side have made, and she described it as a ‘massive achievement’.
“Monaghan are a county that everybody in Ulster looks up to as a benchmark at both county and at club level, so it was brilliant to get the win on Sunday” she said.
“It was a massive achievement for us, but as we said to the girls, we have nothing to fear. We’re stepping into a higher level, where nobody expects anything of us, bar ourselves. We have a high level of standards, and we want to win every game.
“So, we’re continuously going out to develop and improve at every single training session, so for us to go out and put on a performance against Monaghan and get the win shows that we’re going in the right direction.”
It has been a good run for Antrim, as they followed up last summer’s Junior Championship All-Ireland win, by claiming the Division Four crown earlier this season, and after Sunday’s win, it appears as though they continue to be on quite the upward trajectory.
“Maybe people will look at the result and think, ‘awk, fair play to Antrim,’ but we know that if we turn up and put in our best performance, we can definitely compete,”
“We have total belief in the team, and when we set our minds to something there is no reason why we can’t do it.
“Antrim is probably one of the sleeping giants of Ladies Gaelic Football, because the likes of St Paul’s and Moneyglass have been brilliant at Ulster club football over the last number of years, and we have a group of skilful and talented girls, with more coming through, and I think that’s brilliant.”
This weekend, Antrim host Tyrone in what will be a warm-up clash for both counties ahead of the upcoming Ulster final, where they will meet once again, as both sides defeated Monaghan in the round-robin stage.
Kelly plans to rotate the team for this weekend, and she is hoping that the players she introduces to the starting 15 will give her a selection headache ahead of the Ulster final.
“We’re going to try out some of the girls who haven’t got as much game time,” she said.
“That doesn’t mean we will be completely changing our team, because we have a lot of strength in depth in our squad, so making changes shouldn’t overly affect how we play.
“I think it’s only fair to give the girls a chance to show what they can do.”