Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Antrim in for a Canning

Antrim have never been under any illusions that their scheduled All-Ireland hurling championship clash with Galway will represent a massive task.

Now, if anything, that mission has become even more fraught following Galway's arrival in the National League final and the impending return to action of Ollie Canning, one of their most experienced players.

Galway's stunning National League semi-final win over Kilkenny at the weekend will now see them meet Tipperary in the decider at Limerick on Sunday (4.15).

And with veteran Canning having indicated to manager Ger Loughnane that he is ready to commit himself to the cause again, Galway's defensive options will increase significantly.

Canning stepped out of the Galway squad in 2006 after his younger brother Joe had come in for rough treatment in the Portumna v Loughrea county hurling final. He has remained outside the fold since then although he indicated at the time that his withdrawal was not directly related to his brother's plight.

Now, as Ollie prepares to return, he will do so at a time when teenager Joe is already being hailed as the new pin-up boy of hurling.

He made his Galway debut against Tipperary at the weekend and illuminated the game with his artistry.

All this, of course, helps to heap further pressure on Antrim.

"Obviously we always knew that it was going to be difficult against Galway but when you look at the way they are playing at the moment and the options that they will have, it makes life even more awkward," admits Saffrons' joint manager Dominic McKinley.

Even should they beat Galway, Antrim would be due to meet the first-round losers in the Munster championship.

"And whatever side we would mean then, it would be another mountain to climb," admits Dominic McKinley.

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