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Johnston is fired up to take on his sons for place in Christy decider

By John Campbell

Down hurling manager Michael Johnston certainly does not do under-statement.

His team face Antrim in a vital Christy Ring Cup semi-final in the tranquil rural setting of Loughgiel today but the picturesque locality will be lost on the fiercely-competitive Johnston.

"Loughgiel will be a Colosseum for going to war," he blasted. "The Antrim and Down players know each other inside out. We are very happy to be going to this venue as we are very familiar with it."

And Johnston, who will look to Stephen Keith, Conor Woods, Conor Mageean and Danny Toner to inspire his side, is particularly familiar with at least two of the Antrim players as they are his sons, Conor and Ciaran.

For their part, they will be striving to achieve the goal set by their own management team and that is a return to Croke Park action.

Dominic McKinley, who along with Terence McNaughton, Gary O'Kane and Neal Pedan currently calls the shots for the Saffrons, emphasises just what victory would mean to the side.

"We would get to play in the Christy Ring Cup final at Croke Park and we would be in with a decent chance of returning to the Leinster Championship in 2017," he maintained.

In the Nicky Rackard Cup semi-finals, Armagh will travel to meet a confident Fingal outfit at the Naomh Barrog club complex in Dublin while Donegal will host Mayo at O'Donnell Park, Letterkenny (both 3.30pm).

Meanwhile, Tyrone will take on Fermanagh in a relegation play-off at O'Neill Park, Dungannon (7pm)

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