Louth will travel to Clones on Saturday in confident mood for a league semi-final meeting with Antrim after an impressive campaign which has seen them finish top of the league with the best defensive and attacking record in the division.
Louth v Antrim
Lidl NFL Div 4 Semi-Final – Clones, Co Monaghan
Saturday 20th April, 12.30pm
The Wee County have had a busy period having played on five occasions in the past five weeks. Not surprisingly a number of players have picked up injuries with center back Eimear Murray the latest casualty.
The St.Kevin’s star picked up a hamstring injury in last Sunday’s win over Fermanagh and joins Aoife Byrne and Ceire Nolan as doubts for the clash with Antrim, while Sarah Quinn is abroad and will miss out.
Darren Bishop in his first year in charge is well pleased with the emergence of some really exciting additions to his panel. “Ciara Woods has done really well, in fairness to her she’s finding her feet and for a young girl only coming into the panel this year she is starting to click and move well. Eimear Byrne has also been very impressive, she carries the ball at pace and is very physical which is hugely important for a midfield player.” said the Cremartin clubman.
The Mochtas star also carries an attacking threat having scored three goals in her last three appearances in the red jersey. Aimee McNally and the pacey Emily Norton also add to the fierce competition for places in attack, while Seoda Matthews announced her arrival as a county player with a very assured debut against Fermanagh, giving the management a welcome selection headache for the weekend.
“I am very pleased with the players who have come into the panel and they have given us plenty to think about” said the Louth manager. Louth’s aim at the beginning of the year was to finish in the top 4 so to top the group was was an added bonus for Bishop.
“To score 2-19 in our last game against Fermanagh was a great score, but there is still room for improvement as we conceded 2-10 which we need to address and rectify this week.”
When the teams met last month Louth emerged convincing winner’s on a 4-11 to 2-4 scoreline with Niamh Rice the scoring hero with 2-3. However the Louth boss isn’t reading to much into that game.
“Antrim didn’t start five of the players that I believe should have been on from the start in Cooley. It’s a two horse race, we will be favourites so Antrim go into the game under no pressure.”
Tyrone man Sean O’Kane who was appointed Antrim chief in mid December said his aim was to qualify for the semi finals and he has seen his team recover well after a narrow two point loss to Fermanagh in their first outing,they followed that setback with three good wins over Leitrim, Kilkenny and Limerick and a draw with Derry before losing to Saturday’s opponents.
They needed a win over Carlow in their final game and they got it when Aoife Taggart showed nerves of steel to knock over two late frees to win the game by 1-13 to 1-11.
The Saffron county will hope to go one step further than last year when they lost to Wicklow at the same stage and have in players such as Cathy Carey, Caitlin and Aoife Taggart and Mairead Cooper players of considerable ability and experience.
With a place in the final up for grabs, Antrm are certain to be more competitive than when the sides met earlier in the competition, and the wide open spaces will suit both sides who play an exciting brand of football.
Louth are very much the team in form and appear to carry the greater scoring threat and are fancied to make the final for a second successive year in what could be a high scoring encounter.
Preview by Dermot Woods | Photos by Warren Matthews