They may have already been crowned Ulster champions but this will prove a rather hollow honour when Antrim face Dublin in the Bord Gais All Ireland Under 21 Hurling Championship semi-final at Pairc Esler, Newry tomorrow (4pm).
Dinny Cahill’s side played just one game to clinch the provincial crown when they beat Armagh in the decider and that is hardly likely to prove sufficient preparation for their contest against a Dublin side that rampaged through Leinster and is being tipped to lift the All Ireland crown.
While Antrim can look to senior players like Conor McCann, James Black and Mark Donnelly to set the tone, Dublin’s all-round ability is such that they have leaders all over the park.
No one is more inspirational, though, than dynamic centre-half-back Liam Rushe who proved outstanding in the senior team’s gallant bid to make it into the All-Ireland final against Kilkenny.
Rushe can again prove a tour de force and he will have support from players like Michael Schutte, Niall McMorrow and Conor Gough.
In Eamon Dillon and Kevin O’Loughlin the Dubs have potent finishers and in beating Wexford by 1-18 to 0-11 in the provincial championship the metropolitan side underlined their capacity to take scores from all distances.
The Antrim defence will certainly be tested to the full and manager Cahill is anxious that his side should not concede early scores if at all possible.
Dublin too will have the benefit of huge vocal backing. An 8,000-strong gallery saw them topple Wexford and many of their followers will be in Newry tomorrow to see what they hope will be yet another successful chapter scripted in the ongoing vibrant story of Dublin hurling written.
Antrim secretary Frankie Quinn, said: “Obviously Dublin are very much in the driving seat but this Antrim side have belief and commitment.”