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Antrim will be on the up if they defeat Down

By John Campbell

New Antrim captain Kevin O’Boyle believes his team stand to gain a considerable pre-National League boost if they can overcome Down in Section C of the Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup at Casement Park tonight.

O’Boyle, who has been in the squad for three seasons and played in the 2009 Ulster final against Tyrone, readily admits that James McCartan’s side will provide the Saffrons with a stiffer test than St Mary’s at the weekend.

“We will be going into Division Two of the National League at the start of next month and we need to get a few tough games under our belts,” said Cargin clubman O’Boyle.

“Down can really test us tonight. They may have been beaten by a point by Armagh at the weekend, but they still have a fair bit of experience in their side.”

Antrim manager Liam Bradley is certain to undertake a further study of the exciting Dean O’Neill and Mark Sweeney as he pieces together the line-up that he believes might thrive in the league.

Skipper O’Boyle forms a defiant full-back line alongside Andrew McLean and Dermot McCann while up front Mark Dougan, Paddy Cunningham and Kevin Niblock will carry Antrim’s scoring hopes.

C J McGourty will be absent tonight because of injury and manager Bradley is likely to assess some of his substitutes.

Benny Coulter landed two goals for Down against Armagh while Ronan Murtagh has already mounted his bid for what he hopes will prove a regular place in the attack this year.

Meanwhile, Armagh will play their first competitive match in fifteen years at the Athletic Grounds tonight when they meet St Mary’s in the other Section C game.

Paddy O’Rourke’s side were well served by newcomers like Rory Grugan and Conor Clarke in Saturday’s victory over Down.

St Mary’s suffered a nine-point defeat at the hands of Antrim on Saturday and apart from the impressive Kevin Mossy their attack is rather lightweight in terms of scoring power.

Manager Paddy Tally is hoping for a change in fortunes tonight, but he may well discover that the Orchard County have already got the bit between their teeth.

Belfast Telegraph

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