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Saffrons aim to bolster defence ahead of new campaign

By John Campbell

Published 29/01/2016

Hotshot: Ryan Murray’s fine form is a boost for Antrim
Hotshot: Ryan Murray’s fine form is a boost for Antrim

Antrim begin their Allianz Football League Division Four campaign against Carlow on Sunday having conceded 7-36 in the three games they played in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup earlier this month.

And that's not the sort of statistic that will breed optimism within a county that has endured frustration in the competition over the past two years.

Joint bosses Frank Fitzsimmons and Gearoid Adams have already made it clear that the Saffrons must remedy what has been an ongoing penchant for leaking soft goals.

This is something that has tended to blight Antrim's participation in the league of late and while the team for the trip to Netwatch Cullen Park is expected to be strengthened, the management are aware that the concession of goals could seriously impact the team's chances of making the leap into Division Three.

Adams said: "Promotion is a priority. That's what we want more than anything but we won't get there if we give away goals. We have been working on our defensive strategy and we hope to minimise the opportunities we afford our opponents."

At the other end of the park, the form of Ryan Murray for Queen's - he scored three points in a mid-week Sigerson Cup tie - is viewed as a bonus.

"We have players back on board now who have been with their universities and that is a boost," added Adams.

"We would like to get our league programme off to a decent start but we know that Carlow will be equally keen. Having to play away in your first game can be difficult but we're ready for the challenge."

The experienced Michael McCann is expected to be handed a roving role in attack while Conor Murray and Kevin Niblock can provide further proof of their ability to both create and take scores.

Brian Neeson, who has returned to the Saffrons' front line this year, is also looking sharp although Tomás McCann has been deployed mostly as a substitute so far but may get more game time on Sunday.

Belfast Telegraph

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