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Red-hot Clarke knows the score for Antrim's Cup final replay

By John Campbell

Antrim hotshot Ciaran Clarke will carry a huge burden of responsibility into today's Christy Ring Cup final replay against Meath at Croke Park (5pm).

Clarke has been racking up huge scores for the Saffrons of late but his accuracy will be required in spades against a Meath side who will be unwilling but nonetheless fiercely combative protagonists.

Meath manager Martin Ennis had made it clear following the embarrassing faux pas which saw referee John O'Brien return an incorrect final score in their previous meeting that his team would not participate in a replay.

But Ennis, in common with other managers and indeed administrators who have been forced to back down in the Championship season to date, finds he now must confront an Antrim side who will carry a raging hunger into the game.

Clarke, along with Conor Johnston and Niall McKenna, forms the cutting edge of an Antrim attack to which the management will look to fashion victory.

Management spokesman Dominic McKinley believes that while he feels his team have the capacity to come out on top, Meath will nonetheless present a formidable challenge.

"We need a big team performance and while Ciaran Clarke certainly has been on fire for us, we need everyone to step up to the plate if we are to win this trophy," maintained McKinley.

"Meath had taken delivery of the trophy the last day and have had to surrender it. I'm sure they will now want it for keeps."

Meath are not without their own firepower with James Toher, Adam Gannon and Kevin Kenna likely to ask big questions of the Saffrons' defence.

Yet the defensive nous of Neal McAuley, the versatility of Eddie McCloskey and the subtle style of Eddie Campbell can bolster Antrim, who have already reached the Ulster Championship final - in which they will meet Armagh - and are now targeting a double trophy haul between now and July 10, the date of the provincial decider.

"We are taking one match at a time. We know what we are up against but the players relish the chance of playing in Croke Park again and they know too that victory would help to get them back into the Leinster Championship next year," added McKinley.

"That's where we want to be because that would afford us the opportunity to test ourselves against some of the top sides."

Antrim: E Gillan; S McCrory, T McCluskey, P Burke; O McFadden, N McAuley, F Donnelly; E Campbell, N McKenna; N Elliott, E McCloskey, S McAfee; C Johnston, B McCarry, C Clarke.

  • Antrim v Meath, Christy Ring Cup Final: Croke Park, Today, 5.00pm

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