Down enjoying step up

By Shaun Casey

LAST year’s Ulster Junior Championship Down winners are now one victory away from competing in the Intermediate decider, but their focus will first be on Antrim this weekend before they look that far ahead.

Peter Lynch and Caoibhe Sloan’s side, who also clinched All-Ireland glory in 2023, have already clocked up one victory at a higher grade having seen off Cavan in the opening round of the provincial championship on their way to the last four.

“We had the preliminary round, ourselves and Cavan, one of us had to make way,” explained Lynch. “Cavan have played a higher grade than us – they’ve remained competitive in Senior for the best part of ten years.

“It is probably a transition time for them but still they were in Division Two this year and would have come up against tougher opponents than we did. But we played well and were happy enough to get the win.

“The loser of that game is seeded for the group stages of the All-Ireland, and you’d be considered fifth in Ulster which guarantees you a really tough group, so at least we avoided that, and we’ll just move on and take what comes next.”

Next up is Antrim and Lynch’s ladies have already experienced one win over the Saffrons this season, earning a 3-12 to 1-11 away win in round four of their Division Three National League campaign.

Down finished third in the table behind Roscommon and Clare and missed out on promotion while Antrim were relegated having finished second from bottom. But Lynch warns they won’t be taking anything for granted.

“Ourselves and Antrim were going hard at it. We were chasing Clare and Roscommon and Antrim were in a real dogfight to stay up, so I think they would have identified that game as one that was winnable for them.

“They actually scored more against us that day than any other team in the league did in the other six games. They scored 1-11 so you’d be well aware of what Antrim can do.

“Even without Órlaith Prenter, they have a real scoring threat and no doubt it’ll be a tight game.

Lynch is delighted to have a full squad to pick from with no real injury concerns ahead of the game. Sarah Doherty and Alice McAlea have returned from long-term injuries and are available for selection.

“We’re good, everybody’s in good health,” added Lynch, now enjoying his second stint in charge of the Mourne ladies along with Sloan.

“For a while there we had a few, like Sarah Doherty and Alice McAlea, who were out for a long spell but they’re both back now.

“Sarah’s first appearance for us was off the bench against Antrim.

“She played the full game against Cavan while Alice came on in the later stages of the game and now they’re good to go.”

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