Antrim's Kevin Ryan faced with injury woes as key clash looms
Antrim hurling manager Kevin Ryan faces his most difficult assignment of the year this weekend when his side bid to cling to their faint hopes of remaining in the Leinster Championship against Carlow.
As if a heavy defeat in their most recent outing against Westmeath (1-21 to 0-7) was not hard enough to bear, injuries sustained by Aaron Graffin and Neil McManus on that occasion have added to Ryan's worries.
Graffin will miss the trip to Netwatch Cullen Park this weekend while McManus is still thought to be doubtful as Ryan ponders his selection options.
His side scored only five points from play in going under to Westmeath and their overall return on that occasion does nothing to bolster the team's scoring difference which could yet prove a factor in deciding who progresses.
Several players who were not in the starting line-up against Westmeath are currently putting their hand up for inclusion on Sunday.
Among them are Ciaran Johnson - he scored 0-2 when introduced as a substitute against Westmeath - Matthew Donnelly, Daniel McKiernan and Conor Carson.
While Ryan acknowledges that his attack will need to show more scoring power, he is equally anxious that his defence should prove solid and resilient against a Carlow attack that has scored 3-31 in two matches to date and yet lost both.
They succumbed by 2-19 to 2-17 to Westmeath - and that's in rather sharp contrast to the 17-point mauling Antrim suffered at their hands - before being edged out 1-17 to 1-14 by Laois.
The close nature of both of these games has given Ryan food for thought as he attempts to bolster morale and come up with a winning strategy in what could prove his side's last game in the Leinster series.
Carlow are backboned by several fine players among them Paul Coady, Sean Murphy, Martin Kavanagh, David English and Diarmuid Byrne.