By Kieran Lynch
ANTRIM have made a strong start to their Division 1B league campaign, with two wins and a draw claimed from their first three games, but they face their toughest challenge yet this weekend, against Waterford.
Having defeated Down and Limerick, before pulling a draw from the jaws of defeat against Offaly last week, Saffron manager Elaine Dowds is very pleased with how things are going.
“We’ve had the start we wanted this year – three tough games that we really had to battle through,” she said.
“That’s the kind of experience you want when you’re going to compete in Senior Championship. I think we’re learning with every game we play this year and when we face senior teams who’ve been there for years, we’re more prepared for that level of speed and physicality with every game we play.”
Dowds also said she was particularly delighted with her team’s ability to comeback from a 10-point half-time deficit to claim a draw against Offaly last weekend.
“We started poorly enough and couldn’t seem to settle in the first half,” she said.
“Offaly looked like a different team from last year, very organised and their inside forwards and their runners from midfield gave us a lot of trouble. Half time gave us the opportunity to calm down and regroup, and to regain our focus.
“The entire team showed a lot of character and resilience to fight back. The draw we got in the end up was really important because it means we’re still in contention to get to the league final. I think that’s a lesson we learned a long time ago – to never give up.”
The result means Antrim can begin to look up the table now, rather than down it, as promotion remains within their reach.
“Managing a draw on Saturday’s game keeps us in contention to get to the league final,” said Dowds.
“And realistically if we can get a result against Waterford or Wexford, we’ll be there. So, our goal has definitely changed as the season has progressed.”
However, this weekend will provide Antrim with their stiffest test yet, as they face Waterford who have claimed three wins from three,
and were particularly ruthless last time out, defeating Limerick 3-24 to 2-6.
Antrim will also be sweating over the fitness of Caitrin Dobbin and Roisin McCormick, whilst Katie Laverty and Anna Connolly are out long-term.
“Waterford are brilliant,” said Dowds of Saturday’s opponents.
“They’ve played at senior level for a long time, and they have years of experience behind them.
“They’re coming off the back of a really impressive All-Ireland semi-final performance against Cork last year and they are full of confidence and ambition.
“They’re absolutely on fire this year in the league but I feel confident that we can really put it up to them this weekend in Creggan.
“Antrim loves a challenge and they’ll be really up for the game on Saturday.
“It’ll be a real marker of where we are this year.”