Saffron ladies face unknown American quantity

All-Ireland Junior Ladies Football Championship Group B Round 2
Antrim v New York
Sunday, Davitt’s, 2pm

By Michael McMullan

ANTRIM manager Emma Kelly is not sure what challenge awaits her charges when New York roll into town this weekend.

After coming back from Limerick with both points last weekend, a win on Sunday would see the Saffrons top their group ahead of the knock-out stages.

Antrim lost to Wicklow in last season’s final and Kelly is happy she has assembled a competitive squad as they seek a first title in ten years.

The Antrim camp were unhappy with Limerick’s choice venue and that they declined a request for an earlier throw-in time than 2.00 due to exam commitments on Monday morning.

“We didn’t play well at all and we were two points down at half-time,” she said of their 0-12 to 1-7 win.

“We were playing good football, it was the final pass and we were against a really strong breeze.

“I know we travelled down the day before it, but I think we looked a bit tired. It was such a physical game, so it was a relief to get the win.”

Defender Orla Corr could miss this weekend’s game with concussion, while an ankle injury sustained in last weekend’s warm-up leaves Geraldine McLaughlin on the doubtful list.

“Michelle Magee wasn’t available (against Limerick) and she will be there this weekend,” Kelly added.

“Lara Dahunsi came on; scored and changed the game. The same could be said for Ellie Murphy and Molly Woulahan.

“We have a pretty strong and stable squad, but we have New York this Sunday and they are unknown.”

New York arrived in Belfast on Wednesday and will follow up the Antrim game with their trip to Limerick next week.

Kelly feels that toughening up and keeping possession is Antrim’s passport to success.

“The research has been done, turnovers and retention of the ball is the difference,” she points out.

“The senior teams are better at it than intermediates and the intermediates are better than juniors.

“I am trying to get it into our girls’ heads that you need to stop giving the ball away, it’s that simple.

“Our girls gave so much ball away (against Limerick). Half the time it should’ve been a free, but we should’ve been stronger on the ball.

“They need to improve on that. We conceded 13 turnovers in the first half, to their nine or ten.

“We had a few goal chances that we didn’t take it and we’d usually take them.

“The second half we were all over them and our defence had them locked out. It was a careless penalty they got at the start, Orla Corr was just rash.”

Another aspect where they are craving improvement on is their attacking efficiency. It’s one thing being on top, but scoring rate is the difference in the crunch games.

She refers to their 2-11 to 2-8 defeat at the hands of Fermanagh in the League.

“We were still on top, but the scoreboard wasn’t ticking…we were creating the chances, but we weren’t putting it on the board.”

Looking into Sunday, the positives from the Limerick game was a victory with only 70 per cent of the performance the Antrim boss expects.

As the season heats up, they hope there is more to come.

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