Antrim star Johnston maintains a youthful trend
Published 07/06/2013 | 04:20
For the second week in succession, a teenage player is to be pitched into the midfield furnace of an Ulster Senior Football Championship tie.
Last week, Derry's Ryan Bell made his debut in the engine-room and on Sunday, it will be the turn of 19-year-old Kickhams Creggan clubman Marty Johnston to represent Antrim for the first time in the central area.
He may be coming into the game on a rather limited diet of action, but he is nonetheless armed with glowing credentials.
Former Derry player Paul McFlynn, the current Creggan club manager, is the man who has helped to add an extra string to Johnston's talented bow.
"He has played in defence for Antrim in the past but I noticed his potential at midfield and he has been doing very well there at club level," explains McFlynn, "Obviously both he and his brother Ricky missed a good portion of the league for family reasons, but it's very encouraging to see them both back in the Antrim side. Marty's selection at midfield underlines the progress he has made of late."
He will link up with former London player Sean McVeigh and the duo will confront the vastly experienced Monaghan pairing of Eoin Lennon and Dick Clerk in what is viewed as a key battle.
Johnston's aerial ability and physical strength are qualities that Antrim manager Frank Dawson will look to in a bid to garner first-phase possession so that quick possession can be delivered into his full-forward line.
McFlynn has faith in Johnston, but accepts the Ulster Championship is a daunting arena.
"Obviously, it's a demanding environment, but in the matches to date, several young players have come to the fore, and maybe Marty will follow this trend on Sunday," muses Flynn.
Ricky Johnston, meanwhile, is preferred at full-back to Paul Doherty and Andrew McClean, who have filled the No 3 shirt of late.
McClean is moved to left-corner-back for Sunday's game with Doherty overlooked.
Like his brother, Ricky is a capable fielder and commands the square with a calm authority.
Creggan club chairman Tony McCollum believes that both brothers have a lot to offer Antrim.
He says:"They have been playing superbly at club level, they are very enthusiastic and are still learning. They have a great attitude and I think this will be seen on Sunday."