(Waterford v Antrim, Walsh Park, Saturday, 2.30pm)
Waterford will look to make a positive start in the Intermediate Camogie Championship when then open their campaign against Antrim this Saturday afternoon at Walsh Park.
Having annexed the Division Two League title all of nine weeks ago, Waterford have had a long lay-off and manager Sean Fleming will be keen to ensure that his side gets to pace of the game from the off at the Keane’s Road venue.
On the other hand, Antrim have been in action in the Ulster Championship and went down by just seven points to Derry in the Ulster Championship, a side that will compete in the Senior Camogie Championship.
Expect a mixture of youth and experience within the Antrim team and when one takes the impressive performance of Loughgiel Shamrocks in the All-Ireland Senior Club Semi-Final against Oulart-The Ballagh in February, there is no room for complacency in the Deise ranks.
The Loughgiel pairing of Laura and Emma Connolly look likely to occupy the central defensive positions and will be key to the Antrim effort.
The 2010 All-Ireland Junior winning pair of Aileen Martin and the pacy Shannon Graham will form a formidable midfield partnership and the outcome of the midfield battle will provide a strong platform for either team to succeed in this encounter.
Up front, Emma McMullan’s accuracy from frees will demand that the Waterford rearguard minimise the quantity of frees conceded while full-forward Michaela Convery, who scored the opening goal for Antrim against Waterford in the 2010 Junior All-Ireland Replay, will also pose a significant threat to the Deise full-back line.
The experienced cohort of Jennie Simpson, Charlotte Raher and Nicola Morrissey as well as captain Catríona McGlone ought to impact significantly on the home side’s performance.
A feature of the Waterford team this season is the number of young players who have moved successfully into the adult ranks and Beth Carton, Kate McMahon, Dawn Power and Molly Curran are in line to make their Championship debuts at this grade.
With Kildare facing Kilkenny in the other game in the group, Waterford will be acutely aware that victory on the opening weekend will be imperative to the team’s progress this summer.
U-16s get season under way
Meanwhile, just 24 hours after throw-in in Walsh Park, Waterford and Antrim will clash again in the first round of the Under-16 ‘B’ Championship at a halfway venue (TBC) at 2.30. Last year, of course, Waterford secured the county’s second ever All-Ireland title at U16B level, 11 years after our maiden All-Ireland Camogie crown.
With a number of players from last year’s squad ineligible for this season, manager Declan Drohan has assembled a new-look squad peppered with a number of players from that victorious side, including Laura Murray, Anne Corcoran and Niamh Murphy.
Waterford competed in the Munster ‘A’ Championship earlier in the season and narrow defeats against Limerick and Tipperary should give the team confidence ahead of this championship encounter.
Antrim scored an impressive 0-14 to 0-9 victory over Derry in the Ulster semi-final before scoring a convincing victory over Down on their way to securing the Ulster title on Sunday last. With such momentum behind the team, Waterford will face a stiff task on Sunday.