Antrim youth keen to impress, says Murray
Antrim chairman Jim Murray accepts that it is "far from ideal" that the 2013 Ulster senior hurling championship final should be scheduled for Sunday, February 2 at Celtic Park, Derry.
But the Saffrons chief believes that even though 10 of the last 11 titles have come to his county, a sense of competitive spirit will be very much in the Derry air.
"That's because a number of our Under-21 players who were in action against Clare in last year's All-Ireland final are chomping at the bit to make an impact at senior level and this final comes just on the cusp of the Allianz League," states Murray.
"This means that they will get the chance to impress our manager Kevin Ryan and maybe, who knows, some of them could become regulars in the league."
"It's far from an ideal situation, of course, but we will go with it."
Antrim have been engaged in the Walsh Cup since the start of the month when an experimental team has been fielded.
But although the squad has had to exercise patience in terms of waiting for confirmation of the Ulster final date, the desire to retain the provincial trophy is undiluted.
"Ulster championship medals are invariably treasured by our players. It's worth pointing out that several of our squad do not possess such prizes so they will be going all out to address this, I imagine," adds Murray.
Down manager Gerard Monan watched his side beat Queen's in the Kehoe Cup last weekend and hopes to have a stronger line-up on duty for the Ulster decider.
"It seems a very long time since we beat Derry in the semi-final away back at the height of last summer," muses Monan.
"I admit that we welcomed the opportunity to have a few weeks break after that particular game as it had come hot on the heels of our demanding run in winning the Christy Ring Cup but I never quite bargained for playing a provincial final in February!
"We are due to play Fingal this weekend in the Kehoe Cup and this will serve as further preparation for the Ulster final and then it's straight into the league."