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Talented Antrim confident of Croke Park glory

Saffron ladies gear up to emulate previous winners

By Declan Bogue

Antrim ladies manager Seamus McKenna has vowed that the Saffrons girls will go into their All-Ireland Junior final at Croke Park at the height of confidence after their landslide win over London.

At Fingallians ground on Sunday, they won their semi-final 6-15 to 2-8, with a glut of goals including a penalty from Clare Timoney, and further majors from Aine Devlin, Mairiosa McGourty and Mairead Cooper.

They now face Longford on Sunday, September 25, aiming to emulate the successful Antrim teams that won the West County Hotel Cup in 2009 and 2012.

"It is a huge game for us," said their manager, who had previously been part of the St Gall's hurlers backroom team, the side reaching the 2010 All-Ireland Intermediate club final, losing to Kilkenny's St Lachtain's.

"I think we would be going in very confident - you have to be, going into an All-Ireland final, but it will be a big task," added McKenna.

While he is able to lean on the previous final experience of some members of his squad, he is quick to warn of the considerable player turnover when he states: "There are not as many as you would think. Maybe about six or seven girls who might have played in Croke Park. There are a lot of girls who have not tasted that yet.

"Those that were there before would be Mairead Cooper, Clare Timoney, Cathy Carey, Aine Tubridy and Nicole Kelly. About six or seven of them from 2012 that played. It will be a new experience for a lot of them, especially the younger girls.

"We brought in six or seven minors after the National League, so it will be a big day."

They couldn't be any more familiar with final opponents Longford. When they met in the regulation National League fixture, McKenna tried out a few new players and lost, before beating them in the league semi-final.

However, Longford came back to beat Antrim in the preliminary round of this year's All-Ireland, so there is a ready-made source of motivation.

McKenna explained: "They reversed that (league semi-final loss) in the All-Ireland fixture in St Paul's.

"I feel we didn't do ourselves any justice that day at all and I think that match gave us a bit of a wake-up call."

He continued: "But it didn't work out that way and it helped us out, that result, in a strange way. It bonded the girls together and it got them more focused.

"Sunday's game against London, we proved on the day that we are going to be a hard team to beat."

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