Derry can secure their senior championship status

By Niall Gartland

DERRY will be eyeing up Saturday’s home tie against Limerick as one that could potentially secure their All-Ireland Senior Championship status for 2024.

The Oakleafers fell to a bruising defeat to Tipperary last weekend, but this is a much more winnable contest and if they produce the goods at Owenbeg, it would in all likelihood mean that they’ll stay up no matter what happens in the final two rounds of fixtures.

Whoever finishes bottom of the table will face into a winner-takes-all relegation play-off scenario against the team that finishes dead last in Group Two (likely Down).

It will likely come down to Derry, Antrim or Limerick, but the Oak Leafers victory against Antrim puts them in a good spot.

Limerick are managed by their former intercounty hurler Joe McQuaid, and they haven’t fared well on the road so far this year and PJ O’Mullan’s side will definitely fancy their chances of picking up a second win of the campaign.

That would be a considerable achievement from the reigning All-Ireland Intermediate champions, but nothing is yet guaranteed.

Their neighbours Antrim will be smarting after their defeat to Kilkenny last weekend, losing out to 6-15 to 0-9 against the 2022 All-Ireland Senior champions at Corrigan Park.

It doesn’t get any easier as they take on an extremely strong Waterford side on Saturday, and they’ll already be thinking further down the line to their final group stage match against Limerick, a game that could potentially save their bacon depending on how the Munster side fare against Derry.

In the other side of the All-Ireland race, Down face a trip to Galway on Saturday, an extremely tricky assignment. Galway can call upon former Down star Niamh Mallon, who transferred to the county having spent the last few years working in the county. They’re second in the group with a win and draw to their name, while Down have nothing to show for their efforts after two games.

Paul Donnelly’s side did extremely well to maintain their top-flight status in the league, but they’re in a precarious enough position as things stand and it would be a big enough surprise if they don’t end up in a relegation play-off in a few weeks’ time, where Antrim, Derry or Limerick could well thwart their efforts to stay in the Senior Championship for another year.

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