Antrim manager Frank Dawson has said he will not be deflected in his main aim for the McKenna Cup, as the Saffrons face Derry in their final group game.
League is the main goal for Saffrons boss New broom: Antrim manager Frank Dawson is looking ahead ANTRIM manager Frank Dawson has said he will not be deflected in his main aim for the McKenna Cup, as the Saffrons face Derry in their final group game.
Going as far back as the competition launch, the St Gall's man has publicly maintained his main objective in the January competition is to unearth talent suitable for the rigours of an important league campaign in Division Three.
To date, Antrim have used a total of 24 players. Some have filled different roles such as Sean McVeigh, who began against Jordanstown as full back and a week later did a brilliant man-marking job on Sean Cavanagh at midfield.
Against Derry, Antrim have a chance to end their McKenna Cup campaign on a high, as well as gaining the upper hand on their neighbours.
“It means we are going to Celtic Park now with something to play for,” reflected Dawson.
“It's not a meaningless game, there is something for us to play. Again, the key thing for us would be developing the two performances we have had, hopefully repeat in greater detail the things that work for us and then cut out silly mistakes, which happen when teams put you under pressure, or under no pressure ourselves.”
On Sunday, Antrim were guilty of some glaring personal errors. Peter Harte's first goal was a case in point. Saffrons netminder Chris Kerr ventured out the field looking to distribute, and when no team-mate showed for the ball, he ended up giving it away to Darren McCurry. It was hand-passed to Conor McAliskey and while Kerr did brilliantly to save his shot, the attempted clearance by Paul Doherty was blocked down by Harte and dropped into the net.
Some other old failings re-emerged, such as a 26th minute free within scoring range that Kevin Niblock instead elected to take short to Michael McCann. The ball went through McCann's grasp and a chance was lost.
Such indulgence will not be tolerated by Dawson, who is in the early stages of imposing his philosophy upon this group of players.
Even though they have an outside chance of qualifying for the semi-final stages, it is extremely slim, given the handsome score difference that Fermanagh and Monaghan currently have. The likelihood is that both aforementioned teams will go through, along with Tyrone and any side from the more open section B, containing Cavan, Down and Armagh.
Dawson though is already looking ahead when he says, “We decided that we were going to use the McKenna Cup games in preparation for the National League. We think we have one or two fellas in our McKenna Cup squad that we haven't seen. One of them may come into contention for Wednesday night, we will know better at training, one of them won't be.
“The team that we put out will be building towards the National League, so we will see how that works,” he concluded.