/ GAA

Roscommon boss relishing Tullamore showdown

Updated: Thursday, 01 May 2014 16:32 | Comments

Kieran Kilkenny is hoping that the  O'Connor Park crowd can help inspire his side
Kieran Kilkenny is hoping that the O'Connor Park crowd can help inspire his side

Roscommon ladies football team manager Kieran Kilkenny is relishing the prospect of contesting a national final before the county’s Under-21s take on Dublin in Tullamore on Saturday.

Kilkenny will lead his side into battle against Antrim in the Tesco Homegrown Ladies National Football League final before the Rossies attempt to topple the Dubs in the men’s All-Ireland U21 decider.

Roscommon could achieve a glorious double at O’Connor Park and Kilkenny reflected: "It’s great to have the opportunity to play before the Under-21s. This is what they girls have put a lot of hard work in for."

But Kilkenny revealed that Roscommon will go into battle without last year’s captain Niamh Ward, who is ruled out with ankle ligament damage.

Free-scoring forward Natalie McHugh, meanwhile, will line out despite the fact that she is nursing a broken finger.

Roscommon, beaten finalists in 2013 and 2011, will start as favourites to claim a first League crown since their Division 3 success in 2009.

But Kilkenny is expecting a much-improved Antrim challenge following a comfortable win for the hosts in Strokestown earlier in the campaign.

Kilkenny explained: "It was a home game for us and we got a run on them in the first half. Antrim had travelled three or four hours but they outplayed us in the second half. They have some very good forwards and we’ll worry about that. And they have pedigree and experience of playing in front of big crowds."

Saturday’s fixture represents a very first League decider for Antrim, who were crowned TG4 All-Ireland junior champions in 2009 and 2012.

But Roscommon could benefit from a greater support in Tullamore, with Kilkenny hoping that fans get there early to cheer on his side.

He said: "They're expecting about 10,000 people there and there could be 1,000 or 1,500 towards the end of our game.  But on the field, it’s down to the players themselves.

"They've put in a lot of hard work, trained hard and with most of the panel in college, they've been trying to juggle exams and training. They've put in a great effort in fairness and hopefully the day won’t overawe them. I’m sure that it won’t if they concentrate on the job they have to do."

Meanwhile, Antrim manager Dominic Kelly has confirmed a fully-fit squad for a fixture that will see the winners gain promotion to Division 3 for the 2015 season.

And Kelly admitted: "It would be absolutely crucial for Antrim. We have won the junior All-Ireland but haven’t really progressed in the League. We reached the semi-final twice but this is our first opportunity in a final and it’s a massive thing for us.

"When we first played them (Roscommon) in the League, they beat us by ten points. We knew nothing about them but since playing that League game, we know that they are a big, physical and strong team, with plenty of forwards who can score at will. It will not be an easy task on Saturday."

Kelly acknowledged that the crowd factor could be an advantage for Roscommon but he added: "It’s been well promoted within our own county and among the clubs. Hopefully we’ll have a good mix of supporters ourselves but obviously with Roscommon being in the Under-21 final, it’s an advantage."

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