ULSTER JUNIOR LADIES CHAMPINSHIP FINAL
Antrim v Fermanagh
Saturday, O’Neill’s Healy Park, 6pm
By Niall Gartland
THE Antrim ladies are bidding to win their third Ulster Junior Championship title in a row when they take on challengers Fermanagh in this weekend’s showdown.
These two sides have already met in this year’s championship with the Saffrons claiming a 2-13 to 1-10 win in Arctic conditions in Silverbridge.
Impressing that day were Antrim’s Orlaith Prenter, who chipped in with four points from play, and her teammates Grainne McLaughlin and the ever-reliable Cathy Carey, who also led the way on the scoring front.
Their manager Emma Kelly, speaking this week, was keen to emphasise their strength-in-depth throughout the squad and says their subs have a particularly important role to play.
“Preparations have been going, we’d a good amount of challenge games so everyone’s chomping at the bit to try and get in the starting 15. we’re trying to get it into the girls heads too that we’ve starters and finishers and girls who are capable of coming on and changing the game no matter whether things are going right or going wrong,” she said.
“We know the girls who are very capable of coming on and giving us fresh legs and it’s a role we need.”
James Daly’s Fermanagh side bounced back in from that aforementioned semi-final defeat with a runaway 6-20 to 1-3 victory over an out-of-sorts Derry.
Fermanagh’s play was absolutely outstanding with Eimear Smyth and Blaithin Bogue running riot up front.
They also do have a win over Antrim under their belts this season – they met in Division Four of the league and on that occasion the Erne ladies emerged as 2-11 to 2-8 victors.
On that occasion, key Antrim defender Saoirse Tennyson was forced off with a broken cheekbone, but she put in a massive effort into her recovery and she could well have a big part to play in Saturday’s final.
The Saffron manager recognises that they’ll probably be favourites on grounds of their recent championship win over the Ernesiders.
“Fermanagh have a couple of class girls, Blaithin Bogue, Eimear Smyth and others, who have destroyed teams by themselves.
“Fermanagh have recently come down from Intermediate level so they’ve had a bit more experience than ourselves, but we’re on the up.
“We’re probably favourites because we beat them in the semi-final but we’re not going in cocky, you can never take anything for granted. Girls could have a bad day so it’s about controlling the controllables and making sure girls turn up and perform.”