LGFA National League Division Three

Antrim v Down (Davitt Park, Sunday, 2pm)

THE breaks have not gone the way of Antrim’s ladies in their Division Three campaign to date, but there is little option but to dust themselves off and go again in what is potentially a do-or-die clash against Down this Sunday.

Emma Kelly’s side could and probably should be in a strong position at the opposite end of the table, rather than bottom after three rounds.

Antrim were caught late by Louth in their opener, came up narrowly short against an Offaly team that is in a three-way tie at the top heading into this weekend and their latest blow came last Sunday in Wexford when a late rally by the Slaneysiders saw them hand the Saffrons a 1-3 to 0-5 defeat. That leaves them rooted to the bottom of the table as the only team remaining to get off the mark.

It seemed they were on course for a much-needed win in a low-scoring affair, leading 0-2 to 0-1 at the half with the scores coming from the returning Maria O’Neill and Lara Dahunsi.

Even the sending off of Theresa Mellon - who will miss out on Sunday’s Ulster derby as a consequence - failed to put the brakes on their charge with three Dahunsi points after the break seemingly putting them in pole position with 10 to play.

However, disaster would again strike with the hosts halving the deficit before Caitriona Murray struck what proved to be the winning goal in the dying minutes.

It was another crushing blow for the Saffrons whose record of three defeats to date have been. by the thinnest of margins and it is a case of learning the lessons and fast with their Division Three status now under threat.

“A little bit of inexperience, lack of savviness and game-management,” said a rueful Kelly.

“At times we are pushing for more scores when we are ahead and maybe just need to hold the ball and be patient to work the gaps. If they don’t have the ball, they can’t score.”

Down got their first win of the campaign on Sunday thanks to a late converted free against Sligo - the 1-10 to 1-9 victory a major boost for the Mourne women in their quest to remain in the third tier.

With Down and Sligo also hovering around the danger zone and games against the pair to come over the next few weeks, there is no more room for error.

“It’s really between ourselves, Down and Sligo at the bottom,” said the Antrim manger. 

“Sligo got the draw against Offaly and we’re thinking we should have beaten Offay and also should have beaten Wexford who beat Down.

“We also should have beaten Louth, but shoulda, woulda, coulda... We really ought to have had points on the board but there’s no point in getting relegated and then thinking about all the games you should have won but didn’t.”

Antrim headed into the game last weekend with a threadbare squad and although Mellon is out this week, there may be better news with a number of players expected to be back include Emma Ferron and Gemma McGourty back.

That would represent a boost to the Saffrons’ hopes as although they have yet to take anything from their games to date, they have not been far away and the challenge this week and for the remainder of the campaign is to find that missing ingredient.

“It is just going to be everything to the wire, the whole kitchen sink at it,” the Antrim boss continued. 

“Hopefully the girls turn up and put on a show. I’m not sure who Down have to play, but we’ve got Clare and Roscommon to come and they are both up there at the top of the table (alongside Offaly on seven points). There is no point in fearing anybody as one break and things could start to turn our way. 

“Last year, we could have struggled in games but still came out the right side, whereas this year we’re not getting those breaks, so we just need that boost from somewhere.”