Antrim hurler Neil McManus has spoken of the need to deliver a big performance this Sunday in the Ulster hurling Championship final to rescue what has become a painful season for the Saffrons.
McManus feels that they have a chance to gain a measure of atonement for their 32-point whipping by Limerick last Saturday.
The Cushendall man (pictured) summed up the short-term aim, saying: “The preparation coming into the Limerick game was a very disappointing aspect for Antrim and I hope it is something we’ll never have to go through again.
“Definitely the performance was just dire, unacceptable and the aim will be to restore a bit of pride in the jersey on Sunday at the Ulster final.”
Reflecting on a strange year for Antrim hurling, McManus continued: “Even though things started off with good points such as the league, whenever the manager left, then came back, things were up in the air at different stages.
“But the players have to take responsibility for our own performance. It’s really about us playing.”
After conceding four goals in the opening 13 minutes to John Allen’s side, he admits they were left shell-shocked by the opening, and claims that there cannot be a repeat of it or else Derry will wrestle the Liam Harvey Cup from them.
“We were really caught cold and we sort of knew the game was over after the first 15 minutes,” he added. “After they had scored four goals in the first 15 minutes we started getting control of the game for five minutes, but it was already too late at that stage.
“We have to go into the match on Sunday a lot sharper or we’ll pay the price.”
Last Sunday, instead of staying indoors and licking his wounds, McManus made the journey to Casement Park to check out the final opposition in person. That Derry won by such a margin did not come as a huge surprise to him.
“I’ve seen them three times this year,” remarked McManus. “Ruairi Convery is a big boost for them at full-forward, but they have lots of boys that I played with at University and they beat us with a good under-21 team that I played on in the Ulster final, three or four years ago. We are in for a battle. I’ve played with Kevin and Liam [Hinphey] for Ulster, I’ve played with the two McCloskeys, Paddy Henry at University, and I would know a lot of them.”
He added: “At this stage we are lucky that we have another opportunity to maybe restore a bit of pride.”
l TWO replacements from the team that started against Limerick in Antrim’s 8-26 to 1-15 crushing have been named to start this Sunday’s Ulster final against Derry.
Loughgiel’s James Campbell comes in at right corner-back and edges out PJ O’Connell, while Michael Herron replaces Michael Gettens just in front of Campbell at right half-back. Other than that, Saffrons interim manager Jim Nelson has tinkered with the structure of the forward line.
Paul Shiels comes out to wing-back, with Barry McFall making the opposite journey. Shiels is expected to play a loose role around midfield.
Neil McManus is named to start the game at full-forward, and he switches directly with clubmate Conor Carson.
It leaves an extremely potent two-man full-forward line with Liam Watson alongside McManus.
Antrim: DD Quinn; James Campbell, N. McGarry, Aaron Graffin, M. Herron, N. McAuley, Johnny Campbell, B. McAuley, S. McNaughton; E. McCloskey, C. Carson, P. Shiels, L. Watson, N. McManus, B. McFall.