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Neil McManus urges Saffrons to set an early marker

By John Campbell

Antrim can avail of the perfect opportunity to hone their preparations for the forthcoming Allianz Hurling League when they meet Dublin in the Walsh Cup tomorrow.

The Saffrons are facing a demanding mission in Division 1B and confronting the Dubs at this juncture will provide confirmation of the quality of opposition they will face over coming weeks.

Saffrons skipper Neil McManus states: "Maybe it's still only January but if we could manage to come out on top, this would be a boost for us going into the league. Dublin are finding their feet under Ger (Cunningham) and they will be keen to impress so we know what we are up against."

Meanwhile, west Belfast outfit O'Donovan Rossa will take on Waterford and Munster champions Cappoquin in the All-Ireland Intermediate club championship semi-final at Cusack Park, Mullingar tomorrow (2.00pm).

The game will be staged almost 25 years to the day since the club enjoyed their greatest hurling occasion when Munster senior champions Patrickswell (Limerick) were defeated in a rousing All-Ireland semi-final.

"Obviously there is a great tradition within the club but we are very keen to make our own piece of history and then move on from there," says Rossa skipper Crickey McGuinness.

In the All-Ireland Junior club hurling semi-final tomorrow, Monaghan and Ulster champions Castleblayney will take on Modeligo from Waterford.

FOR a county that boasts a rich football tradition, the ignominy of suffering what has become a protracted famine in terms of landing silverware has now become acute.

Not since 1994 has either the Ulster or All-Ireland title rested in Mourne territory and it is necessary to go back to the '80s to chart the county's last success in the All-Ireland club series when Burren reigned supreme not once but twice (1986 and '88).

It's hardly surprising then that the go-ahead Cumann Pheadair Naofa, Warrenpoint see themselves as lighting a torch of hope as they prepare to face Kerry and Munster champions Ardfert in tomorrow's All-Ireland Intermediate club semi-final at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise (2.00pm).

Defensive ace Ryan McAleenan encapsulates the Warrenpoint spirit when he says: "This is the biggest test our club has ever faced. Ardfert are a strong team but hopefully we will be able to perform to our ability.

"We have just won our first Ulster title but it would be an unbelievable achievement for us to win an All-Ireland title."

Meanwhile, St Patrick's, Rock, the Tyrone champions, will take on Brosna (Kerry) in the All-Ireland junior semi-final tomorrow.

Former Tyrone ace Ciaran Gourley provides experienced leadership within the Rock side while Conor McCreesh has been scoring for fun.

It was in beating Donegal side Urris in the Ulster final that Rock showed their mettle and if they can reproduce this form, they will be in with a great chance.

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