Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Antrim teams facing days of reckoning

Antrim manager Frank Dawson wants more from his team

Antrim are facing into a double dip recession of a sporting nature.

The county's footballers have a make or break Allianz League clash with Monaghan on Sunday that could determine their Division Three survival hopes while the hurlers must lock horns with Carlow in a Division 1B relegation play-off on Sunday week that boss Kevin Ryan had hoped to avoid.

Football boss Frank Dawson had been optimistic in advance of last Sunday's meeting with Meath that his team might copper-fasten their place in Division Three but instead an 11-point defeat, 1-19 to 0-11, has sent a shiver of apprehension through the squad and magnified the prospect of Division Four football.

Dawson had with considerable justification adhered to the mantra that Antrim had control of their own destiny but with Monaghan still in the promotion frame and favoured with home advantage the Saffrons do not now possess quite the same spring in their step.

And since the Meath debacle there has been much soul-searching within the side, with experienced players such as Tony Scullion, Paddy Cunningham, Kevin O'Boyle and others admitting that it's time for everyone to look in the mirror.

While their cause against the Royals was not helped by the sending-off of Declan McCann and Conor Murray, missed chances and an inability to protect possession undoubtedly proved cardinal sins.

Dawson stoked the flame of defiance at training last night, urging his players to show self-belief and pride in the jersey against a Monaghan side that rather surprisingly lost to Roscommon in their last outing.

"I still think we are good enough to remain in Division Three but we have to prove that on Sunday," said Dawson.

"We made silly mistakes against Meath for which we were made to pay and we can't afford to do that against Monaghan. We need to get a win," insisted Dawson.

His team's survival mission is in tandem with the efforts of the county hurling side to retain their slot in Division 1B.

The chips are not stacked quite so high against Ryan's charges, however, as they have already beaten Carlow.

But that will certainly not lead to any complacency in the build-up to Sunday week's contest.

"This is a match that we had hoped to avoid and we would have done so had we benefitted from better refereeing against Offaly on Sunday," claims Ryan.

"I thought we got a raw deal on occasions in that game and we were very unfortunate to lose by just two points.

"We had put ourselves in a good position but we were unable to close the game out."

If Antrim can repeat their win over Carlow, the team Ryan supervised before throwing in his lot with the Saffrons, then they will ensure Ulster's continued representation in hurling's top tier.

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