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No northern delights in hurling world

The current National Hurling League is proving a less than favourable shop window for the sport here in Ulster.

Antrim, Down, Derry and Armagh have for some time been perceived as the torch-bearers in the second most important competition in the annual fixtures calendar but right now a marked tendency to err on the side of generosity is serving to heighten fears that these teams are no longer able to offer a sustainable challenge to those in hurling’s second tier throughout the rest of the country.

In just four league games in Division Two to date Antrim have conceded 4-46 while Down have leaked a whopping 8-69 which accounts for their dismal -32 scoring difference, a statistic that could yet have serious repercussions for Gerard Monan’s side.

Monan (pictured right) cannot be imbued with optimism for tomorrow’s clash with confident Laois at Portaferry even though they won against Kildare last weekend.

Antrim, meanwhile, are afforded an opportunity to move into the top half of the table when they go to pointless Westmeath. Even without the suspended Liam Watson and the injured Johnny Campbell, Dinny Cahill’s side should be able to make up for those recent setbacks against Laois and Clare by garnering maximum points from this encounter.

If Ulster’s ‘big two’ are finding the going tough, it is far from plain sailing for Derry and Armagh in Division 3A.

The Oak Leaf side may have knocked up an impressive 10-49 in their four games (two wins, two defeats) to date but their concession of 7-39 overall smacks of a defensive malaise.

This being the case, they will view today’s trip to confident Meath with some trepidation although the scoring touches of Ruairi Convery and Oisin McCloskey could stand them in good stead at Pairc Tailteann, Navan.

Similarly, Armagh — having looked vulnerable in sacrificing |6-58 in four starts — have reason to hope that Kerry will be in compassionate mood in Tralee given that they have already wrapped up Division 3A due to an unassailable lead at the top of the table with this weekend’s round of fixtures bringing the curtain down on the action.

Armagh shocked Derry in Celtic Park last Sunday winning by 3-11 to 1-12 and if they can repeat this form then they could finish on a high note against a Kingdom team that is clearly anxious to flex its muscles against bigger fish in the foreseeable future.

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