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National Hurling League: Cahill wants Antrim to start firing

Antrim and Down face important assignments in Division Two of the Allianz Hurling League tomorrow.

Both are in urgent need of points to haul themselves out of the bottom half of the table but while the Saffrons have cause for optimism as they prepare to face pointless Westmeath in Mullingar, Down face a tricky task against Laois at Ballycran.

Antrim manager Dinny Cahill is hoping for a greater spread of scorers though. Neil McManus has been landing the bulk of his team’s scores of late from play and frees and Cahill is anxious to see more players step up to share the scoring load.

The Herron brothers Michael and Ciaran, Johnny Campbell and Neil McAuley continue to underpin the Ulster champions’ line-up and following their recent win over Carlow, a victory against Westmeath should ensure an extension of their Division Two status for next season.

However, despite their poor form recently the home team still possess some skilful players. Joe Clarke and Niall Flanagan form a durable midfield while up front Brendan Murtagh, Dan Carthy and Alan Devine can pick off scores if plied with quality possession.

Down, meanwhile, will still be missing a battery of experienced players as they prepare to face a Laois side which ran table-toppers and promotion favourites Limerick very close last time out.

Gareth Johnston, Paul Braniff, Simon Wilson, Stephen Murray and Gabriel Clarke will all again be missing but manager Gerard Monan can nonetheless look to a number of young players to step up to the mark.

Andy Savage and Eoin Clarke have been playing well at midfield and their battle with James Walsh and Sean Burke will be an interesting element of the contest while Down can look to Benny Ennis and James Coyle to plunder scores up front and Graham Clarke is still one of the best goalkeepers around.

With just one win to date, Down badly need the points. While they have been totting up some impressive scores, their tendency to leak goals has hampered their progress to date.

Armagh will not find the going easy when they confront high-flying Wicklow in Division 3A at the Athletic Grounds.

Wicklow are unbeaten and are playing with considerable poise and authority while the Orchard County, who have lost to London and Kildare at home, have been struggling to find real cohesion and penetration.

Derry could profit at London’s expense when the teams meet at Banagher. Derry boss Ger Rogan saw his side just fail against Wicklow but with Ruairi Convery and Mark Craig to set the tone, the Oak Leafers could remain in the promotion hunt by winning tomorrow.

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