Antrim will rely on a defensive mix of youth and experience to contain a potentially dangerous Dublin attack when the sides meet today in the All Ireland Hurling Championship Qualifiers at Croke Park.
Manager Dinny Cahill merges young guns such as Chris O’Connell, Cormac Donnelly and Paul Shiels with old hands like Sean Delargy, Johnny Campbell, Ciaran Herron and Kieran McGourty in a rearguard that can expect a demanding test from a Dubs’ attack that includes players of the calibre of Alan McCrabbe and Stephen Hiney.
It was earlier in the year that Cahill re-vamped his side by bringing in the new blood and if there have been hiccups along the way then the recent wins over Down in the Ulster final and over Carlow in the previous phase of the Qualifiers have hoisted morale.
But Cahill warns that Dublin will bring considerable intensity into play today.
“They have been beaten by Kilkenny and now they will be keen to make headway through the qualifiers,” insists Cahill.
“There is a growing belief within this Antrim side and our younger players are beginning to show a bit of character.
“There is nowhere better for them to prove themselves than Croke Park. Defensively we must be very strong. That will be crucial.”
Dublin manager Anthony Daly — the former Clare All Ireland winning captain — makes it clear that nothing less than a comprehensive victory today will help to shore up the growing doubts about his team’s ability to become serious contenders for the Liam McCarthy Cup.
“This is a match we need to win. Antrim have a couple of wins under their belts and they won’t be put out by having to come to Croke Park.”
ANTRIM: C O’Connell; K McGourty, C Donnelly, S Delargy; P Shiels (capt), J Campbell, C Herron; K Stewart, S McNaughton; S McCrory, N McManus, T McCann; P J O’Connell, L Watson, K McKeegan