Paul Shiels has a special reason for hoping that Antrim can triumph against Offaly in the Leinster Hurling Championship at Parnell Park, Dublin on Sunday (3.30pm).
Dunloy’s versatile competitor missed his county’s baptism in the same competition last year because of a torn cartilage in his hip which he suffered in a National League match against Laois — an injury which subsequently necessitated surgery and which was to keep him sidelined until the early part of this year.
He returned to action for Dunloy in the All Ireland Club series and subsequently resumed his Antrim career much to the relief of manager Dinny Cahill.
Now University of Ulster student Shiels, who is working with Creagh Concrete on his year out, is ready to pit his skills against an injury-hit Offaly side comforted by what he believes to be Antrim’s encouraging record against the Midlanders.
“We beat Offaly earlier in the year in the Walsh Cup and even in past years Antrim have done quite well against them. But that does not count for anything now. We know this is a big challenge for us,” stresses Shiels.
He will be at midfield for Sunday’s tie while Johnny Campbell and Aaron Graffin will underpin the defence in front of goalkeeper Gareth McGhee and Shane McNaughton, Karl McKeegan and Neil McManus will form a full-forward line that embraces skill and stamina.
Offaly defender Stephen Egan and corner-forward Ger Healion are ruled out.
Down manager Gerard Monan expects to be without Ruairi |McGrattan for tomorrow’s Ulster Championship quarter-final against Armagh at Casement Park (4.30pm). Derry take on London in the other quarter-final on the Casement double bill (2.30pm).