All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Group Three Round One
Down v Meath
Sunday, Lannleire, 1pm
THE All-Ireland Intermediate Championship has the potential to be a difficult one for Down – but that doesn’t mean that progress isn’t being made, according to their joint-manager Caoibhe Sloan.
The Mourne girls were tipping along nicely in the league earlier in the year, and looked like they were on course for a place in the Division Three final before the LGFA called a halt to proceedings with two rounds of fixtures remaining.
That aside, the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship is littered with Division Two teams, including this weekend’s opponents Meath, who lost the Intermediate decider to Tyrone a couple of years ago.
Sloan, who manages the team with Peter Lynch, is suitably realistic about Down’s chances of going far in the competition – but by no means does that suggest a lack of ambition.
“We’re constantly trying to build the younger girls up to an intercounty standard and we feel that Down will have success in the not-too-distant future if we continue on our current pathway. Meath might come a bit too soon for us and they’re red hot favourites naturally enough, while Westmeath are also in our group and they play in Division One.
“If things hadn’t have been shutdown earlier in the year we likely would have got to the league final against Kildare, we needed maybe only a point from our last two games. “We felt we would’ve given it a real rattle so that was disappointing. We’re conscious the Intermediate championship has a lot of Division Two teams but we’re not approaching it with any fear, we’ve a young team that will give it everything.”
There’s some good and bad news for Down on the injury front. Three keys players – Lauren Cunningham, Laoise Duffy and Clara Mulvenna are unavailable – but that is offset by the introduction of some cracking footballers who didn’t feature in Down’s league campaign.
Sloan said: “We’ve a few new additions which is brilliant for us. Orna Kelly, from Bredagh, is an exciting young prospect with a great attitude and has a few Ulster minor medals under her belt.
“Naomh Scullion from Rostrevor is young as well, then Cara Cunningham has returned from Australia and it’s a huge lift having her around.
“She’s a nurse and the demands of that are obviously very taxing but she’s giving it everything. Her Castlewellan teammate, Aisling Burns, is a goalkeeper and is also new to the panel.”
Sloan reveals that they were low in numbers a few weeks ago with players in self-isolation, but things have picked up again in time for the championship. She says they’re trying to do their best in what is obviously a very difficult situation.
“A couple of weeks ago we only had 14 in training. We’re weathering the storm but it can be difficult as we’re used to preparation being mapped out in a lot of detail.
“At the moment we’re literally taking it day-by-day as you could get a phone call at any minute. We were ready to go a few weeks ago to play a challenge game but then five of that starting team had to sit it out.
“We say to the girls that we could go back into lockdown at any time. It was unprecedented back in March, nobody could’ve predicted it, so right now we’re trying to enjoy it as best we can. We just have to give it everything we can as nobody knows what’s around the corne.”