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All-Ireland Hurling Championship: Antrim wary of revived Westmeath

By John Campbell

The measure of Antrim’s task against Westmeath in tomorrow’s All Ireland Hurling Championship meeting at Casement Park, Belfast has been forcibly underlined by new visitors’ boss Brian Hanley.

“I won’t be hoping for a big performance from Westmeath in this game, I will be expecting it,” raps Hanley, who has taken over the reins from Brendan Fennelly.

That is surely a challenge to which the Saffrons will be keen to respond, particularly after their |3-16 to 1-11 defeat by Wexford which took some of the gloss from their earlier 1-21 to 3-12 victory over Laois.

The Saffrons may have beaten Westmeath twice already this year in the Walsh Cup and National League but manager Dinny Cahill insists that this will not necessarily give his side a head start for tomorrow’s contest.

Cahill, who was very disappointed with his team’s second-half offering in the defeat to Wexford, nonetheless believes that they can resurrect a generous measure of pride at Westmeath’s expense.

“I was mystified by our second-half showing against Wexford but tomorrow we have the chance to show our true worth. We have home advantage and we must make the most of it,” declares Cahill.

“Westmeath played well before being beaten by Galway and they have already beaten Carlow so they will be up for battle.”

The Saffrons will be without goalkeeper Sean Hawes who has undergone surgery on his fibula while Johnny Campbell and Liam Watson are still out. Shane McNaughton is going to the United States and it is also understood that Michael Armstrong is out of the panel.

But there is still an experienced underbelly to the side. Aaron Graffin, Neil McAuley and Michael Herron help to underpin the defence, Barry McFall and Paul Shiels have struck up a bond at midfield and young guns such as James Black and Conor McCann are complementing the guile and technique of Neil McManus, Karl McKeegan and Karol Stewart in attack with their searing pace and sure touch.

Should Antrim manage to win tomorrow, this would earn them a home tie against Carlow tomorrow week also at Casement Park.

Belfast Telegraph

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