Antrim football skipper Kevin O’Boyle is in no doubt as to what will be a top priority for his team as they prepare to embark on their Allianz League campaign.
“We have four games at home and it’s absolutely essential that we get as many points from these as we possibly can,” said O’Boyle.
“Every team knows that it is generally difficult to get points on the road so we have to make the most of any home comfort we are given. To put it bluntly, our survival in Division Three will depend on this.”
O’Boyle’s stark warning is not without foundation. Last year Antrim flew out of the traps in the league chalking up three wins in quick succession before falling victims to Roscommon and Longford, defeats that saw the wheels come off their promotion wagon.
Skipper O’Boyle, five years in the side and a defensive anchor, does not wish to endure another false dawn.
“Our new manager Frank Dawson is very positive and this has rubbed off on the players. We feel we are capable of making a decent push for Division Two status but we know it’s essential to get a couple of early wins,” he said.
First up for Antrim on Sunday are Cavan, a team they defeated in the league in 2010 and 2012, both those wins coming at Kingspan Breffni Park.
Antrim’s other home matches in the league will be against Fermanagh, Roscommon and Meath and O’Boyle is hoping that the fans will turn up in big numbers this weekend to get behind the side.
“It would be great to get a bit of support because I know that these Antrim players are ready to respond to it. Our training has been going really well and we did not do too badly in the McKenna Cup,” added O’Boyle.
Certainly a win over UUJ, a draw against Derry and a defeat to Tyrone constitute a ration of encouragement for Dawson’s troops.
They will be without Tomas McCann, Micheal Magill and Andy McClean for the visit of Terry Hyland’s side on Sunday but the expectation is that this trio will be back on active duty shortly.
Antrim PRO Brendan Mulgrew points to the fact that manager Dawson now has enhanced options open to him in terms of selection despite the injuries.
“There have been occasions in the past when Antrim have had only a limited panel but now there is cover for most sectors of the team and this should help sustain us in the league,” said Mulgrew.
“Michael McCann played at full-forward for the most part during the McKenna Cup yet he is an accomplished midfielder, while Sean McVeigh is now very much back in harness and Conal Kelly is fully fit again.”
Antrim’s scoring average, though, continues to be a source of concern.
“We have to try and boost our scoring. We have tended to average something like 1-10 in the recent past and quite often this can prove insufficient to bring victory in league games,” added Mulgrew.