Down Ladies footballers have been drawn against their Wicklow counterparts in the TG4 Intermediate All-Ireland Championship on August 10 (Venue TBC) writes Barry McConville.
As a provincial finalist, Down were automatically placed into Round 2 of the Championship whereby Wicklow received a Bye into round 2 and no doubt were hoping not to meet the Mourne Ladies again after a very disappointing meeting in the league for Wicklow, which saw Down come out comfortable winners.
Wicklow did not register a win in the league campaign this year, conceding 217 points with just 31 points scored for the Wicklow girls. A very disappointing tally for a proud footballing county and there no doubt they will be looking to make a better start to their All-Ireland campaign.
Down on the other hand won the league in a thrilling encounter against neighbours Armagh and won promotion to top flight Div. 2 football in 2014. Down are clear favourites to progress past Wicklow and book a spot in the quarter finals, pencilled in for 17 August. However, they are not taking anything for granted.
Down Captain Sinead Fegan said of the upcoming encounter: “We are looking forward to our first competitive game since the Ulster Final. We’ve played Wicklow before in the league and beat them comfortably, but this is Championship football, so we need to ensure we are totally focussed for it. Preparations are going well and all the girls are looking forward to it. But we are looking no further than the Wicklow game!”
Down Manager Benji Ward in agreeing with Sinead’s assessment of Wicklow, said: “We respect all teams left in the series and we are expecting and preparing for a tough Championship match. We played Wicklow at home in April and they were going through a difficult patch at the time and we won comfortably.
“But we were flying at the time ourselves and things have changed since then with regards prep time, training and matches. We are trying our best to work around the Club Leagues and Championship as in Down Ladies football, unlike in the men’s football, there are no starred games, so it’s tough to get the training and prep time we would like, going into the biggest competition in Ladies Football, but we’re managing best we can.
“The girls are working very hard and we as a management team are just focussing and concentrating on the 10th August and Wicklow. However, there’s no secret of our ambitions this year. We really want to push on try and add the All Ireland title to our NFL title we won in May and we know Wicklow will be doing their upmost to stop us. It’s also a great opportunity for us to finally put behind us the disappointment of the Ulster Final and get our All Ireland campaign off to a winning start, so it’s all guns blazing for Wicklow!”
Down Ladies football is on a crest of a wave at the minute, with the Senior Ladies winning their league and reaching an Ulster Final. Although the defeat to Fermanagh in the Ulster Final was a bitter experience at the time, the Down girls have turned the experience around and used it as a motivating factor going into the All Ireland.
Last year a relatively inexperienced Down team went out in the quarter finals to Waterford who themselves were defeated in the final by Armagh. But by Down’s own admission, they were building the team and were a county in transition in 2012. This year however Down are hungry for more silverware and have their eyes on the big prize, the Mary Quinn Cup, and why not?
Armagh lifted it last year and since then they have failed on two occasions to defeat Down. Although the players are looking no further than the next game, the supporters are anticipating clocking up a few more miles on the clock before the summer is over, culminating in a day out in Dublin in September.