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Antrim place faith in Ronan Hanna to plug leaky defence

By John Campbell

Ronan Hanna is gearing himself up for the biggest test of his sporting career to date.

The Lamh Dhearg clubman is set to make his Ulster Championship debut in Antrim's colours against Fermanagh at Brewster Park, Enniskillen on Sunday.

The talented custodian steps into the spotlight following a series of impressive displays at Under-21 level senior level and replaces Chris Kerr, who left the Saffrons squad following the axing of C J McGourty.

Hanna gave what is arguably the best display of goalkeeping at any level in Ulster this year so far when he almost single-handedly defied the Armagh attack in a rip-roaring Ulster U-21 Championship contest at the Athletic Grounds which ended in a draw.

A string of spectacular saves ensured the Saffrons lived to fight another day and if they lost the replay at Pairc Esler Newry it certainly was not the fault of the agile Hanna.

His emergence as a goalkeeper of outstanding quality has been hailed by the Antrim management and by county board officials.

The Saffrons will travel to Enniskillen anxious to atone for a below-par itinerary in Division Four of the league and Hanna will be charged with responsibility for applying a remedy to what has been a constant sore within the side.

Time and again Antrim have looked as if they might get the better of teams only to concede what one official described as "foolish goals".

Manager Bradley is determined to avoid a repeat of that on Sunday although he is aware that the Fermanagh forward line contains players such as Tomas Corrigan and Sean Quigley, who are well capable of finding the net.

"The league is behind us now and the team is very keen to do well in the Championship. The players have been working hard and the important thing is that these boys all really want to see Antrim succeed," insists Bradley.

Brian Neeson, who has been battling against injury lately, is hoping to make the cut.

If fit he will certainly offer the Saffrons options in midfield even though he may be included in the half-forward line with Sean McVeigh and skipper Niall McKeever expected to form the engine-room with Michael McCann, another player who is no stranger to midfield, likely to be deployed at full-forward.

County PRO Brendan Mulgrew says: "There is a good mix of youth and experience in the panel and it's great to see players like Ronan Hanna, Conor Murray and others coming through. This gives us tremendous hope."

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