Mourne County in “redevelopment phase” says skipper Magee

By Shaun Casey

DOWN have suffered back-to-back league defeats to Antrim and Limerick but their captain Dearbhla Magee insists they are willing to keep fighting in the hope of retaining their place in Division 1B.

Antrim overcame the Mourne ladies in the opening round while Paul Donnelly’s side endured a 3-19 to 0-6 thumping at the hands of table-toppers Limerick, but all their attention will be on the challenge provided by Wexford this weekend.

Down are a team in transition at the moment as a number of key players are currently not part of the panel. Niamh Mallon has joined up with Galway, Lauren Clarke is off to Australia while Sara-Louise Graffin and Catherine McGourty have retired.

“It’s been a rough enough start to the league, but we have a new, young panel involved this year compared to last year,” said Down skipper Magee, a recipient of a Gaelic Life All-Star award for her performances with Liatroim last season.

“It’s just getting through that development stage and getting started with it.

“We obviously lost to Antrim and to Limerick as well last weekend, so we’d be pushing to win one or two matches in the coming weeks.

“We’re in this redevelopment stage and a few other girls are just focusing on club this year. With that we’ve had to bring newer and younger players into the squad.

“There’s definitely been a redevelopment in the team, and we have set out our own aims and goals within the team. One of them is to maintain Division One status in both league and championship. It’s proving a challenge but we’re willing to work with it.”

Wexford, who reached the Division 1B league final last season but lost out to Waterford, handsomely saw off Down in the 2023 reverse fixture and there were 14 points to spare that day.

Down will have home advantage this time around with Saturday’s clash taking place in Magee’s home spot of Liatroim, and the women in red and black will hope they can make that advantage count.

“They seem to be one of the favourites (for the league title), it’s between them and Limerick. In terms of scores they’ve both been doing quite well.

“It’s in our home ground and Liatroim is obviously my home pitch, so it’s nice to have that home comfort. The pitch is literally half a mile from my house so it’s very handy in terms of travelling, sleeping at home, eating times and things like that, so home advantage is always important.

“It’s nice to play on my own home club ground as well for the county, there’s always something special about that.”

While it’s a more inexperienced squad this season, Magee believes her side will be able to call upon everyone this weekend.

“We’re all fit and healthy at the minute.

“It’s nice going into a game knowing that we have no injuries in the squad, so we’ll hopefully be able to maintain that clean bill of health,” she added.

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