THERE are two massive games this weekend for Carlow county teams, with one team battling to stay at intermediate level while another has ambitions of promotion to that grade.
For the Carlow camogie team, they face a must win game against against Tipperary in the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Relegation Final on Saturday, and then less than 24 hours hours later the Carlow ladies football team will hope to book a place in an All-Ireland Junior Championship final when they play Antirm in a semi-final.
After a promising league campaign, where they were only beaten in the Division 3 final by Armagh, David O’Mahoney’s camogie team have found the going tough in the All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship. Carlow were beaten 4-19 to 0-4 in the first round against Galway and although the performance improved next day out against Meath the concession of five goals hampered any chance of a win and they were beaten 5-14 to 0-13. Their group stages ended with a 4-11 to 2-9 defeat to Dublin in Santry.
However, all is not lost as their opponents for Saturday’s game (in the John Locke Club in Callan at 5pm) are hardly in any better form. They were beaten by Kerry, Laois and Derry in the group stages and then lost a further game in a play-off against Kildare to drop into this Relegation Play-Off final. Carlow will look to reliable free taker Eleanor Treacy and the likes of Ciara Quirke and Kate Nolan to get the scores they need to win the game.
While the camogie team will hoping to end their run of losses, the ladies football team will be hoping to continue their good form after hard fought wins over Derry and Limerick in their last two games.
The Carlow team should take great confidence from those wins when they take on Antrim in Dunleer at 1pm on Sunday. The two teams have already met in the group stages when the game finished a draw at the end of normal. Under the rules of the competition there has to be a winner on the day so extra time was played and Antrim ran out convincing winners but the close nature of the first 60 will offer great hope to Mark Keating’s team.
Carlow have some real stars on their team so far this season, none more so than Cliodhna Ní Shé. The Bennekerry/Tinryland sharpshooting forward has racked up a brilliant score of 6-14 and is very much in the running for the inaugural ZuCar Golden Boot award for the top scoring ladies footballer across the championships, with only Aimee Mackin (4-28) and Wicklow’s Maria Kealy (0-34) ahead of her.
However, individual accolades are sure to be at the back of Ní Shé’s mind with an All-Ireland final place at stake. Dannah O’Brien and Aoibhinn Gilmartin have chipped in with some important scores through the season, at the other end Ellen Atkinson and Amy Dooley have marshalled the centre of defence well while the hard working midfield duo of Caoimhe O’Neill and Niamh Forde have set the tone for the team around the middle third.
Speaking after last week’s win over Limerick, wing forward Maria Kinsella said:
“We want to be in an All-Ireland final. We play Antrim now. I think our performances have been good during the year but we haven’t come out on the right side of results. There is youth in that team that want to drive on. There is great experience with Old Leighlin girls being in Leinster finals. There is huge pride in the county jersey now and we have a big job against Antrim now,” stressed Maria.
“It is a dream. It is 2007 since I played in an All-Ireland semi-final. I saw this team lose to Louth by a point in an All-Ireland semi-final four years ago. That got me back in a Carlow jersey and next Sunday is huge,” she predicted.