Niall McKeever will bring power to midfield for Antrim
Niall McKeever is ready to forge a new midfield partnership for Antrim alongside the experienced Michael McCann.
Portglenone clubman McKeever finally brought the curtain down on his four-year term with Brisbane Lions in the Australian Football League last October and turned out for UUJ in the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup this month until the team's sudden and premature withdrawal from the competition.
Now back with Antrim, the strapping 24-year-old is destined to fill the midfield breach caused by a knee injury suffered by Sean McVeigh in Antrim's McKenna Cup victory over Down.
McVeigh is now likely to miss the early part of the league and this could open the door for McKeever to resume his county career.
Antrim will kick off their Division Four campaign against Leitrim on Sunday week in Carrick-on-Shannon and manager Liam Bradley, conscious that the side were unable to maintain momentum in the competition last year, is anxious to have his strongest possible line-up on duty from the outset.
McKeever and Aodhan Gallagher formed the Antrim midfield in the 2009 Ulster final when Tyrone were the victors.
In that game Michael McCann played in attack but the Cargin clubman, one of Antrim's most experienced players, has been forming the engine-room alongside McVeigh lately.
McCann was outstanding against Down and did much to fashion the optimism that now prevails within the Antrim camp as the countdown to the league commences in earnest.
Both he and McKeever are strong, athletic players capable of high fielding and making sorties in support of their attack.
It is expected that Ryan Murray, who was so impressive for Queen's in the McKenna Cup, will come into the Antrim frame for selection against Leitrim.
Paddy Cunningham, Michael Pollock, hugely impressive newcomer Philip Maguire and Paddy Kelly are other attacking aces who can expect to be on duty at Carrick-on-Shannon.
Maguire in particular appears a distinct find, his work-rate, vision, distribution and finishing skills marking him down as a special talent.