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Fitzpatrick and Laverty are ready to lead Antrim charge

 

By John Campbell

Antrim have been handed a major double boost in advance of their important Ulster Senior Football Championship meeting with Donegal in a fortnight's time now that Matthew Fitzpatrick and skipper James Laverty will be available for selection.

Fitzpatrick attended a Croke Park hearing on Thursday night at which a case brought against him in relation to striking with the hand against Armagh, an offence for which he had been initially served with a proposed one-match ban, was ultimately not proven.

Laverty, meanwhile, has confirmed that he has recovered from a severe back disc problem and is looking forward to leading the side out at MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey.

The duo will now figure in the plans of joint managers Frank Fitzsimons and Gearoid Adams as they further step up preparations for their team's Championship opener.

Joe Edwards, a St Paul's club delegate to the county board, and board vice-chairman Terry Reilly played important roles in supporting Fitzpatrick in his bid to have his proposed one-match ban rescinded.

Meanwhile, Cargin clubman Laverty, who led Antrim in their opening two league games against Offaly and Tipperary before incurring his back disc injury, was subsequently forced to step away from inter-county action and undergo an intensive period of physiotherapy.

"I have improved now and I am hopeful of being selected against Donegal. It would be a great honour for me to lead this Antrim side out at Ballybofey," stated Laverty.

In the Ulster Special U17 Football Competition quarter-finals today, Cavan will host Derry while Armagh will take on Antrim. Tyrone will have home advantage at Healy Park, Omagh against Donegal and Down will face Monaghan at Pairc Esler, Newry. All matches are at 12pm noon.

In the Ulster Minor Hurling Shield final, Donegal will face Tyrone at Owenbeg (12pm).

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