Antrim must rediscover their bite, says Mark Sweeney
Antrim's Mark Sweeney was sitting at his desk yesterday morning in his Dublin workplace early enough to hear the All-Ireland qualifiers draw being made live at 8.00am.
This is the life of the actuarial consultant; up early, stay late, fit in football somehow. And yet, despite the travelling, he was one of the few players to emerge with some credit after the Saffrons' recent defeat to Fermanagh.
Since then, he has been immersed in club football with his Dublin club St Jude's. He sat down on Saturday evening to watch the broadcast of the Kildare and Laois game hoping to keep an eye on Laois player John O'Loughlin, who will be an upcoming opponent in the Dublin Championship - he plays his club football with Tony McEntee's St Brigid's, who Jude's are drawn to face.
It was an instructive evening, given that Antrim will face whoever loses the replay between the two Leinster counties.
"Both teams are flying," is the 26-year-old's assessment. "Laois were very impressive against Dublin last year and any team that can stick with Dublin for at least a half have to be going well."
Sweeney reveals that the Saffrons took a fortnight break after their Brewster Park loss.
"You don't want to be forcing the issue when lads are maybe not feeling the best after losing a match that you definitely thought you could have won. And also, most people coming out of it felt that they hadn't performed," he explained.
"It's definitely worthwhile giving lads a break, letting them go back to their clubs and allowing them to get a good buzz back for it again."
Looking ahead to the qualifiers, he pointed out: "It's really two separate seasons at the minute. You have your provincial competition and then you have the All-Ireland series. Every team is going to set their own goals and we had set our goal in Ulster; beating Fermanagh was our main one.
"We are not in a position to look past any team, especially in Ulster. We didn't reach that goal, everyone was upset about it, everyone made mistakes, from the sideline right through the players and subs.
"Everybody was just under par, so hopefully that will give them an edge back. We have to go back out and prove ourselves again.
"It was the hardest draw we could have got, really. We can't deny it. We were hoping for a different team, but we'll just take it. We now have an opportunity to prove ourselves against a decent team."