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All Ireland Qualifiers: Antrim missing out as CJ heads for USA

By John Campbell

With just over 48 hours to go before they meet Kildare in a vital All Ireland Football Qualifier replay Antrim have been dealt a serious blow following CJ McGourty’s decision to jet out to the United States.

McGourty, who is expected to spend the greater part of the summer on vacation in the States, was introduced as a substitute in last week’s drawn game between the sides at Newbridge and would almost certainly have been afforded game time against Kieran McGeeney’s men on Saturday night at Casement Park had he been available.

The St Gall’s clubman only re-joined the Saffrons squad quite recently but made a huge impact when he was introduced for the second half of the Ulster Championship quarter-final against Tyrone. In a virtuoso performance, McGourty scored four superb points from play and underpinned an Antrim recovery that provided the impetus for last Saturday’s resilient show against Kildare.

Antrim officials had been hoping to have their strongest squad available for Saturday night’s contest but while McGourty’s departure is a setback, liaison officer Tony McCollum insists that adequate resources are still available to deal with the challenge which the Lily Whites will pose.

“We did not have CJ for part of the National League and yet we won promotion to Division Two. No county likes to lose a skillful forward at this particular time of the year,” points out McCollum.

The absence of the talented McGourty will be offset to some extent by the return of Michael Magill, who played at full-forward for the greater part of the league including the Division Three final defeat against Sligo at Croke Park.

The Tir na nOg (Randalstown) clubman was subsequently left off the panel for disciplinary reasons but has now returned and could play on Saturday night.

Michael McCann, who played at full-forward against Kildare last weekend, is likely to start in this position again and will be flanked by Paddy Cunningham and veteran Kevin Brady who showed up well in Newbridge.

Brendan Herron and Aodhan Gallagher are set to resume their midfield partnership, the former having shown no ill-effects from his recent ankle injury during the drawn game.

Kildare manager McGeeney has already called for much more accuracy from his attack following their depressing sequence of wides in the drawn game.

The normally accurate John Doyle, who has been in the side for 11 years, was uncharacteristically out of touch although Ronan Sweeney constituted a big threat to the Antrim defence and McGeeney is optimistic that better finishing could now take his side through to round two.

Belfast Telegraph


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