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All Ireland Under-21 Hurling Championship: Antrim aiming to upset the odds in semi quest

By John Campbell

Antrim will look to a modest ration of senior players to provide the platform for victory when they confront Tipperary tomorrow in the Board Gais All Ireland Under-21 Hurling semi-final at O’Connor Park, Tullamore (4pm).

Cormac Donnelly, PJ O’Connell and Tomas McCann are among those who can help the Ulster champions to make a mockery of their opponents’ favourites’ label.

Tipperary were thrust firmly into the frame to become All Ireland champions when they overcame Cork in the Munster final in a match watched by 11,500 people — a crowd far in excess of that which watched Antrim get the better of plucky Armagh.

But although the young Saffrons face an immense task, skipper Cormac Donnelly (pictured) believes they are equipped to face the challenge. The 20-year-old Ballycastle clubman insists that Antrim have been gaining in maturity and confidence.

“Armagh surely tested us in the Ulster final but we might be the better for that. Tipperary have shown themselves to be very good at Under-21 level and, like ourselves, they will have a few players with senior experience,” points out Donnelly.

Noel McGrath, Padraic Maher and Conor McGrath are almost certain to offer most resistance to Antrim’s bid to make it into the decider. Noel McGrath in particular is likely to have a big influence tomorrow given his immaculate display at centre-half-forward against Waterford when he effectively pulled the strings in the Tipperary attack.

While skipper Donnelly will have the job of marshalling the Antrim rearguard, O’Connell, also a very capable footballer, and McCann along with ace marksman Darren Hamill can help provide the fire-power up front.

Meanwhile, Kevin Lynch’s make no secret of their desire to retain their Derry Senior Hurling Championship title as they prepare to meet Lavey in Sunday’s final at Celtic Park (6pm).

The Hinphey brothers Kevin and Liam are expected to spark the Dungiven side’s bid for more glory but Lavey have looked impressive in getting to the final and will offer a robust challenge.

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