Antrim manager Frank Dawson is hoping his defence will be on top of their game when Meath come calling at Casement Park on Sunday seeking a win that would thrust them into the promotion frame in Division Three of the Allianz Football League.
The Saffrons are targeting a rather more modest goal, though. Victory would ensure their divisional safety irrespective of how they might fare in their final league game against Monaghan, who are also chasing promotion, on Sunday week
Dawson is now keen to see his rearguard restrict the Royal county attack that includes players such as Peter Byrne and Michael Newman who have been plundering scores regularly in the competition to date.
“The fact that our salvation is in our own hands rather than us being dependent on how other teams do is encouraging,” says Dawson. “We have home advantage for this one and we got a bounce of the ball last week-end when Wicklow and Sligo, both of whom are below us in the table, were beaten.”
But Dawson acknowledges that it will take a big performance from his side if they are to halt Meath’s recent run of form.
“They have three wins to their credit and will come to us believing they can get into the promotion hunt. We need to be able to cope with their attack in particular,” insists Dawson.
In this respect, players such as Andrew McClean, Justin Crozier and skipper Kevin O’Boyle will have key roles.
Antrim were very much below-par in their last outing against Roscommon and Dawson believes his side has considerable scope for improvement.
“I cannot put my finger on why we had such a flat performance in that game. We are capable of much better than that and unless we prove this on Sunday we will create problems for ourselves,” admits the Saffrons boss.
Paul Doherty will be missing because of a hamstring problem but Sean McVeigh can help Antrim gain a foothold in midfield, an area in which Meath are usually fiercely competitive.
Michael Herron, Conal Murray, Tómas McCann and Brendan Herron are other key players in the Antrim side while Niall Delargy is expected to be fit.
Meath manager Mick O’Dowd was under severe pressure when his side made a depressing start to the league but is much more upbeat about their prospects now.
“The fact that we have got three wins helps to give us a bit of confidence going forward and we know that we need to get maximum points from our trip to Antrim if we are to have any chance of staying in the promotion race until Sunday week,” concedes O’Dowd.
“We made things hard for ourselves in a couple of games but we maybe can take a big step forward on Sunday.”