Down’s camogs have a big concern as they prepare for next weekend’s All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship final clash with old rivals Antrim.
One of their star players, Fionnuala Carr, is carrying an injury. She tweaked her calf in a warm-up on the Thursday night training before their semi-final win over Meath. She didn’t walk at all or move on Sunday or Monday which is a major worry as she has been so important for them.
Manager Derek Dunne said: “Fionnuala is a big, big worry. She had a big performance on Saturday. She didn’t do the proper warm-up before the game, and I think she played through the game. But she stopped two goals. Without doubt she steadies the ship. The girls feel hugely comfortable around her.
“I am just hoping we have her back.”
Down have been on a great run in this year’s Championship. They beat Derry in round one by 1-15 to 0-9, Laois by 2-13 to 1-8 in round two and that put them straight into the semi-final against Meath.
Dunne says that Down’s form this year has been founded on the players’ self belief.
“I think there was an element of getting them back into room, and getting them to think about themselves, and what they want to achieve.
“There was also an element of bringing in new players, younger players and give them opportunity to thrive. There was a lot of talk about the older ones embracing that, and helping them to come into the team. We won’t win it without those girls coming in.
“Change nothing, and nothing changes. If we do the same thing we will keep getting the same results.”
Those changes included tweaking the management. Dunne added some new faces and that helped them to work on set ups.
“We are not the finished article, but I think we will keep improving. The younger players are getting more comfortable, and the older players are getting used to the set up. We are only three games in. So we will improve.”
They have just over a week till they play Antrim in the decider. While Dunne says they are worried about Carr’s fitness, there are other challenges to address. Primarily the test that Antrim are going to provide them with on the field of play.
“I think they are very under-rated. I think we got very lucky last year to beat them in the Ulster final. We played Dunloy and all those teams in practice matches and they absolutely teed us off. It is always in my head, if a management team comes in like they have in there now (Paul McKillen and Jim McKernan) then it is significant. They are in there to pull players together and get them playing for each other.
“It is a bit like us two years ago. We didn’t have 15 players. Antrim seems to be on the same little bit of turn as well. They have a management team there in Antrim to pull those players together. I think they down play it a lot. But you can see the way they are playing. You saw the way they dismantled Meath (Antrim beat Meath 1-16 to 2-9 in round two). Meath are a top team.
“You might tag us as favourites but I would be very concerned.”
The challenge that Dunne also has is keeping his team grounded for the next week and a half. He doesn’t want them to get over-excited about playing in a final.
“That is paramount. We have a press evening and then we are going to go back into ourselves and talk about what we need to do. We have our two-week plan drawn up. We are just going to stick to that and try not to change too many things. We are going to try not to have extra training sessions. The model we have done over the last few weeks has worked. We are not doing anything extra because there is nothing to be gained. It is all about mind-set for us at the moment.”