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Antrim ladies bid to Erne promotion in Clones clash

The Antrim ladies squad that will take on Fermanagh for the Division Four title this Saturday The Antrim ladies squad that will take on Fermanagh for the Division Four title this Saturday
By Kevin Herron

Antrim v Fermanagh (Clones, Saturday, 2pm)

ANTRIM ladies’ manager, Sean O’Kane insists that he and his squad are relishing the chance to gain promotion when they take on Fermanagh tomorrow at Clones (Saturday, 2pm).

The Saffrons are in the league decider for the third time in six campaigns and go into this clash with a spring in their step after an impressive semi-final win over table-toppers, Louth.

Former Armagh boss O’Kane is delighted that his side has reached the final after a few ups and downs during the league campaign and is hopeful that their best will be enough on Saturday afternoon.

“We’re looking forward to Saturday,” said O’Kane.

“It’s come at us very quick with only being a few months into the job with the girls.

“We’ve had some positive results and a few set-backs, but we’re into the final and that’s where every team sets out to be at the start of the campaign. We’ll give it our best shot on Saturday and hopefully our best will see us over the line.”

The sides clashed at The Dub in the first league game at the start of February and a late Joanne Donnan goal sealed a last gasp 3-11 to 3-9 victory for the Erne County.

O’Kane expects another hard-fought and close encounter on Saturday and isn’t surprised that both sides made the decider.

“I think it will be the same on Saturday; there won’t be a lot between either side,” predicts O’Kane.

“There’s a lot of good players in each team and I’m not surprised that we both reached the semi-finals and ultimately, the decider.

“Fermanagh have probably had a more consistent campaign than we did, but the last two games, we beat Carlow, which was a great scalp considering they topped the league after four games, and then we beat Louth in the semi-final, so we’re in a good place at the minute going into Saturday’s game.”

O’Kane doesn’t believe that either side can fake anything from the previous encounter and sees Saturdays game as a 50-50 encounter.

“I don’t think they’ll take anything from the first game; I don’t think either of us can,” said O’Kane.

“I don’t really know how organised Fermanagh were. We had two trails before Christmas and we’d nothing done for the league, absolutely nothing.

“We’ve improved as the league has gone on – so have Fermanagh. It’s a 50-50 game – that’s how I’d see it.”

The Antrim boss is unconcerned with Fermanagh’s logistical advantage and hopes that his players will be able to take advantage of the wide surface at the home of Ulster GAA.

“Clones is close to Fermanagh, but the reality is we’ve played on it before,” O’Kane acknowledged.

“Fermanagh have played on it before, so the pitch shouldn’t hold any worries for any of the girls.

“It’s a big, wide pitch and the girls know how to play it. Hopefully they can do that on Saturday when it matters.”

O’Kane revealed that the Saffrons have a full squad to choose from and although protocol from Carole Park asks for his starting 15 early in the week, he is adamant that changes may occur before he names the squad at training on Thursday evening.

“We’ve a full squad to choose from,” O’Kane confirmed.

“The protocol is to put a programme in early to Croke Park. It may not be the team that’s named that will be playing on Saturday. We’ll release that to the players first on Thursday night and work towards what we’re trying to do – win a league title.”

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