Cork v Antrim: Rebels one step away from place in Division 2 final at Croker

Cork's Division 1 side are already set to play at GAA headquarters next weekend
Cork v Antrim: Rebels one step away from place in Division 2 final at Croker

Cork's Katie Walsh wins the ball from Antrim's Lucia McNaughton during the 2021 All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

SUNDAY: Littlewoods Division 2 League semi-final: Cork v Antrim, Edenderry, 3pm.

IT’S down to the last four in the Littlewoods Division 2 National League as Cork, Antrim, Wexford, and Waterford remain in the hunt for a place in the final.

The announcement midweek that both the Division 1 and 2 finals are to be played in Croke Park on April 9 is an added incentive for all four semi-finalists to make it to the final. With the Cork senior team already through to the Division 1 decider where they will meet Galway, the hope is that the intermediates can make it a double and a great occasion.

Cork will take on last season’s All-Ireland champions Antrim who will ply their trade in the senior grade for championship while Wexford and Waterford will meet in the other semi.

After a disappointing start to their campaign where they lost out to Wexford, Cork settled and recorded victories over Kildare, Derry, Meath, and Galway. They have worked hard and have shown huge determination.


Joanne Casey continues to be hugely important up front and her accuracy from frees is vital. They have strong performers in captain Finola Neville and Siobhan Hutchinson, who has fared well since moving into attack. Her goal last Saturday just before the break helped put Cork into the driving seat against Galway.

The defence as a unit were superb against the Tribe with the full-back trio Niamh O’Leary, Kelly Falvey and Daniele Carroll all to the fore.

Goalkeeper Sarah Ahern is also playing very well this season.

They will be without Lauren Callanan who has been superb in all games since her return to the side from a preseason injury.

She will be marked absent on Sunday as she is out of the country and she will be a big loss.

Antrim are a well-balanced outfit. Six of their All-Ireland winning team were chosen on the Soaring Stars team at last weekend’s All-Stars with Catriona Graham the goalkeeper, Chloe Drain was named at right corner-back, Nicole O’Neill at midfield, Maeve Kelly slotted in at right half-forward, with Roisin McCormick and Caitrin Dobbin the corner-forwards.

They will be without Intermediate Player of the Year Maeve Kelly who is recovering from knee surgery. Against Cork last year she hit 0-4 from play and her overall contribution helped in no small way as Antrim were crowned All-Ireland champions.

They are under new management after joint-managers Paul McKillen and Jim McKernan bowed out on a high, with McKernan taking over with Armagh.

Elaine Dowd, part of the backroom trio last year, took over the managerial reins and became one of the few ladies in charge of inter-county camogie teams at the top level. She is joined by Shane Elliott, Joe Passmore, and Brian Kearney.

Their path to the semi-final has been impressive. They had a runaway opening-round victory over Kerry but were pushed to the limits by Galway in round two where they had to battle to the finish before running out winners with four points to spare.

Defensively they were well-organised as they held off a strong challenge from a Galway side that took the lead but were pinned back.

The experienced Ulster side didn’t panic but it took a vital save from goalkeeper Graham to deny Ciara Reidy a certain goal from point-blank range.

They totally overpowered Laois in round three to top group three and book their place in the latter stages where they were one of the two teams who went directly to the semi-final.

In last year’s championship, Cork were the only side to defeat Antrim (2-14 to 2-11) when the sides clashed in Castle Road in July.

With both counties finishing level on points Antrim secured the runners-up spot on scoring difference and went on to win the All-Ireland title.

With a new management team this year and some additions to the panel, Cork are revived and determined to make amends and they are hugely determined to join the senior team in Croke Park, just 60 minutes and Antrim stand in their way.

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