Antrim hurling skipper Neil McManus believes that one stark statistic should in itself prove a major motivational factor for his team’s vitally important Leinster Championship clash with Westmeath in Mullingar on Sunday.
“The fact of the matter is that we have won only once since entering the Leinster series three years ago and that was against Laois.
“It goes without saying that this is nothing to brag about and unless we can get past Westmeath on Sunday we cannot hope to better ourselves either as individuals or as a team,” raps the straight-talking McManus.
While the Saffrons are clearly relieved to have survived in Division One courtesy of the recent relegation shoot-out victory over Carlow, McManus believes that it’s what happens on the Championship stage that will fashion the team’s status.
“Sure, we are delighted to be staying up in Division One because we will be playing against quality sides there but we have to make our mark in the Leinster Championship.
“There is absolutely no point in going in there to make up the numbers. Galway have gone in and won the title already so the challenge is there for us to show our true potential,” insists McManus.
Since the start of the year he has been Antrim’s top scorer but McManus derives far more satisfaction from the fact that players such as Stephen Beatty and Jackson McGreevy have been making their presence felt.
“These are among the young guys that our manager Kevin Ryan has turned to in what is a new-look side and to say that they have been repaying the faith he has shown in them would be something of an understatement,” declares McManus.
“Jackson was a minor last year yet he is now playing senior inter-county hurling as if he were born to it while Stephen has been scoring regularly and he has been particularly proficient at snapping up goals.
“These and other players who have come in are showing great pride in the jersey and a win over Westmeath on Sunday would undoubtedly lend further impetus to their careers.”
It is expected that Conor McKinley, Eddie McCloskey and Simon McCrory will be challenging for selection again on Sunday.