By Michael McMullan
DERRY were comfortable winners in their first two games and face neighbours Antrim on Saturday (Glenariffe 5pm) bidding to maintain their winning start.
The Oakleafers only success came back in 2012 when they needed a replay to see off Galway. From that winning team, only Aoife Ni Chaiside remains as they aim to follow in Down and Antrim’s footsteps, who won the title in recent seasons.
Derry are managed by PJ O’Mullan this season and began with a comfortable win over Wexford, 2-17 to 0-7. Áine McAllister hit nine points for the winners with Aoife Shaw, Orlaith Hull and Mairead McNicholl among the scorers.
They backed it up with victory in Carlow and will wear the favourites’ tag this weekend against an Antrim side promoted on the back of winning the junior title last season.
Their hero of the final, Dervla Cosgrove, is still the star of the show and landed nine points in their drawn game with Carlow and will figure prominently in Derry’s thoughts ahead of Saturday’s outing.
Elsewhere in the intermediate championship, Leinster duo Kilkenny and Meath lead the way as the race for the semi-finals spots heats up.
At senior level, Down lost their second game of the championship last weekend when they went down 3-19 to 1-10 to Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
A kicked goal from Olivia Boyle had the visitors 1-3 to 0-3 ahead before the Rebels pulled their way back and ran out comfortable winners. Down welcome Galway to Liatroim in their final group game.
In the junior grade, there are two Ulster teams in pole position to top their respective groups.
Armagh, beaten in the last two All-Ireland finals, have hit the ground running and can make it three wins from three on Saturday against Offaly in Birr.
The Orchard side lost narrowly to Carlow in the league final but are aiming to go one better at championship level.
Cavan hit seven goals in Wicklow on the opening day and they face Tipperary this weekend, aiming to maintain that winning run.
Also in the junior championship are Tyrone. They’ve not enjoyed a positive start to the season, going under narrowly at home to Roscommon before shipping a heavy defeat in Clare.
The Red Hands entertain Louth this weekend hoping to salvage something from their season.
This weekend (all Saturday 5pm unless stated):
Antrim v Derry (Cushendun)
Cavan v Tipperary (Kingspan Breffni, 2pm)
Offaly v Armagh (Birr)
Tyrone v Louth (O’Neills Healy Park)