All-Ireland Junior Camogie Championship Final
Antrim v Armagh (Croke Park, Sunday, 12pm, Live on RTE 2)
ANTRIM camogie joint manager Brian Kearney says his side are raring to go ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland Junior Camogie final against Ulster champions Armagh.

The Saffrons overcame Clare 1-16 to 0-18 to book their place in the showpiece final against Armagh and Kearney believes his young squad will be ready to perform on the biggest stage.

“We’re very excited to be in a final at Croke Park,” he said.

“For a team that have only been together from January it is well beyond our expectations as we didn’t think we’d be here this year. The girls are well buzzing for it.

“It’s a big stage and none of our girls have played at Croke Park before whilst Armagh have been there numerous times, but it will be a great experience for us.

“Of course you don’t know how the atmosphere will affect them, but we will be hoping to keep their feet on the ground and keep the nerves away.

“Those are factors we know we can’t really control, the atmosphere can affect people in different ways but they’ll certainly go out and put on a show and try their best” he stated.”

Kearney acknowledges that Antrim will be going into the game as underdogs given that the squad was only brought together at the start of the year and the team is comprised mainly of junior and intermediate players, but believes that this has made their journey even more astonishing.

“It’s great how far we’ve come, it’s all down to the girls and the belief they have in themselves to go out and compete every game,” he stressed.

“The junior team was a follow on from the success of our senior team and was created to provide players with that pathway, it is a stepping stone for them, if they perform well, towards senior county camogie.

“The semi final against Clare showed the determination the girls had.

“We were going in against Clare, who were an unknown, we’d never played them and didn’t really know anything about them and whilst it was tough, it was the hard work of the girls which got us over the line in the end.”

Antrim face a difficult ask to lift their maiden title against an Armagh side who have been finalists in the last three editions of the tournament, winning in 2020.

The Orchard County represent familiar foes for Antrim, as they knocked the Saffrons out of the Championship as well as defeating them in the Ulster Intermediate final.

They are strong favourites to lift another All-Ireland title at the weekend having racked up high margin victories against the likes of Limerick, Down and Roscommon this season, but Kearney insists that whilst Antrim won’t be looking to enact revenge, they will certainly be going into the game “with no fear”.

“We’re keen to go out and get the victory but I wouldn’t say we’re going out to get revenge as such, but the recent meetings of the two teams definitely sets it up as a good match,” he predicts.

“We’re going in against a very experienced Armagh team, this is their third final in a row and you can’t buy that experience, so we’re certainly going in as underdogs.

“At the end of the day we have nothing to lose, we’re underdogs and we’re happy enough to go in that way.

“We’ve probably go into every game as underdogs this year and not really been given a chance at any stage to be honest but the girls have produced the goods every game  and hopefully they can do so again on Sunday.”

The manager was pleased to report that Antrim will have close to a clean bill of health going into Sunday’s decider.

“We’re in pretty good shape, there’s no real major injuries, a few wee niggles, but nothing serious,” he reports.

“The Clare game did take a lot out of them it was a tough game and battle and there were a few wee concerns after that, but they’ll be alright come Sunday.”
Kearney was keen to stress just how much of a monumental achievement it would be and how much it would mean to the players and staff to win the title on Sunday.

“It would be absolutely fantastic to win the final in our first year. It’s a small panel, but they’re a very close knit team and they’ve gelled well so they’d be over the moon.

“It’s also a  small management team, so we’d be delighted. Therefore it would mean a lot personally and a lot for the progression of Antrim camogie as a whole.”