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Crisis-hit Offaly seeking a lift against Antrim

By Declan Bogue

In a lot of ways, the big bust-up that developed over the last number of weeks in Offaly was the worst possible incident for their potential opponents in this weekend's qualifiers, who happen to be Antrim.

After an unexpected defeat to Wicklow in Leinster, they then parted with their manager, Stephen Wallace of Kerry in ugly circumstances, Wallace already serving an eight-week suspension for a touchline incident that occurred in his native Kerry.

Some very public slanging followed and the upshot was that the Offaly county board ended up appointing historian, lecturer and newspaper columnist Paul Rouse as interim manager, a very interesting development indeed.

Rouse was a handy footballer in his time for Tullamore and he sends his team out on his home turf looking to rebuild their standing in the game. In such circumstances, pride can be a powerful tool with a team.

They come up against an Antrim side that are missing goalkeeper Chris Kerr with an ankle injury that he sustained in the course of their meek exit from the Ulster Championship against Down in Newry.

Straight afterwards, Saffrons manager Lenny Harbinson was into the business of re-framing Antrim's season, stating, "We're looking forward to the draw and I just said to the panel in the changing rooms, Carlow last year, who got promoted from Division 4, embraced the back door, although they might have lost against Dublin and Monaghan.

"We're trying to build a bit of momentum so it just depends who we draw and if it's good quality opposition, it will allow the players to get a bit more experience of playing at that level and that's what it comes down to."

Harbinson was also at pains to point out that their no-show against Down was not a true reflection of the work carried out from the start of the year.

"I'm disappointed from the aspect that I know the determination and the commitment and determination and effort these lads have put in over the last six or seven months.

"It didn't really reflect itself on the first half performance, so from that perspective, I'm disappointed."

A long trip to Aughrim is the lot of Cavan this Saturday, when they take on Wicklow.

The sides last met in 2010, when the introduction of Seanie Johnston from the bench was enough to yield a succession of late points to rescue Cavan on the day.

They now have Dara McVeety fully-fit after missing out on a disappointing performance against Cavan and will be determined to make a go of it in the back-door.

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