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All Ireland Qualifiers: Tough ties in prospect for Ulster sides

By John Campbell

Five Ulster counties - Antrim, Fermanagh, Down and Monaghan along with Donegal or Cavan — will go into the draw for the first round of the All-Ireland football Qualifiers.

It is expected that the draw will be made next weekend and the matches are scheduled to be played on Saturday June 25.

Some or indeed all of the Ulster teams could potentially face tricky assignments as among the teams who will be included in the draw are Laois, Meath, Sligo, Wicklow and Westmeath or Wexford.

While most counties obviously prefer to take the most direct route possible to the All-Ireland quarter-finals by winning their provincial championship title, the Qualifiers have thrown up some hugely exciting matches in recent years.

Meanwhile, Antrim hurling manager Dinny Cahill believes his side have a great chance of advancing through the All-Ireland Qualifiers preliminary phase now that they have been drawn at home against Westmeath on Saturday week.

Antrim lost to Wexford in the Leinster championship after having beaten Laois but they now get the chance to redeem themselves.

“We fell away in the second-half of our match against Wexford but I think we will have learned from that,” says Cahill.

“Home advantage against Westmeath is undoubtedly a bonus and we hope to make the most of it. If we win we will be at home again the following week against Carlow and that will be a powerful incentive for us to do well.”

If the Saffrons beat Westmeath the Ulster final in which they are due to play the winners of next Sunday’s semi-final between Armagh v Down on June 26, will be postponed until July 3.

Antrim chairman Jim Murray and secretary Frankie Quinn have urged fans to come out in big numbers to support the side, saying: “This is an opportunity to witness top-class hurling in Belfast and obviously we are hoping for a very positive response.”

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