Tomas McCann will be conspicuous by his absence when Antrim open their Power NI Dr McKenna Cup campaign on Sunday week against UUJ at Casement Park.
The flying Cargin forward has recently had surgery on an ankle injury, but while he has not been named in manager Frank Dawson’s initial squad, it is likely that he will return to inter-county action at some stage in the spring.
McCann scored a memorable goal against Donegal in the Ulster championship in Ballybofey three years ago when the Saffrons beat the home side then managed by John Joe Cunningham.
While McCann will be an absentee, Dawson has recalled Paddy Cunningham and the Lamh Dhearg ace is looking forward to his return to county action.
Cunningham captained the side when they lost in the 2009 Ulster final to Tyrone before bowing out of the All-Ireland qualifiers against Kerry just six days later.
A teacher at St Mary’s CBS, Cunningham’s accuracy from frees and play has kept him very much to the fore in his county’s colours over recent seasons, but he left the panel earlier this year and manager Liam Bradley’s decision not to seek to retain Cunningham’s services causing some consternation within the county.
Cunningham said at the time: “I have opted out of county football for now, but we will see what the future will hold. I will obviously continue to play for my club Lamh Dhearg and I want to see Antrim become a force in football.”
Following their match against UUJ Antrim will then have home advantage against Tyrone before taking on Derry in Celtic Park.
UUJ joint manager Barney McAleenan acknowledges that the Saffrons will ask stiff questions of his side but insists that the McKenna Cup will prove the ideal build-up for the forthcoming Sigerson Cup.
“We are going to be testing ourselves against some decent sides in the McKenna Cup but I feel we are capable of giving a good account of ourselves,” says McAleenan.
Meanwhile, Armagh manager Paul Grimley is still awaiting confirmation of when his side’s opening match will take place.
They were due to meet Queen’s on Sunday week, but they ave now pulled out of the competition.