Antrim win would be a double boost for county
Antrim's hurlers have been handed a huge incentive to chalk up what would be an impressive double for the county when they take on unbeaten Limerick in Division Two of the Allianz Hurling League tomorrow.
With confirmation having filtered through that the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship will be formally launched at the Dunloy club on May 11, victory for the Saffrons would certainly highlight what could be a significant week for hurling.
While Antrim manager Dinny Cahill is anxious to see his side finish their league campaign on a high, he is already focused on the Leinster Championship in which his side will meet Laois prior to putting their Ulster title on the line.
The Association’s decision to launch its flagship Championships at club venues last year proved a winner.
So already president Christy Cooney has reiterated his belief that in repeating this exercise at different locations this year it will serve to underline what he refers to as “the massive community-based work that clubs do through the promotion of our games.”
With the Dunloy club ready to push the boat out for what will be one of the biggest off-field events in Ulster this year, Cahill’s men aim to enhance the county’s stock against Limerick who are already promoted to Division One.
Under former Cork boss Donal O’Grady, Limerick have thrived in Division Two while Antrim are now in third place in the table.
Manager Cahill though insists that his team will only improve by playing against top-quality opponents.
He is missing at least five key players for tomorrow’s game — Cormac Donnelly, Johnny Campbell, Kevin McCague, PJ O’Connell and Liam Watson.
Sean Hawes continues in goal while Ciaran Herron and Aaron Graffin will underpin the defence. Shane McNaughton, Neil McManus, Karl Stewart and Paul Shiels are other key players in the side.
Down, too, hope to end their Division Two campaign on a high when they face already relegated Westmeath in Mullingar.
Manager Gerard Monan is urging a repetition of the skill and steel that helped Down see off the challenge of Laois in the last round of games.
Gareth Johnston, Paul Braniff, James Coyle, Sean Ennis, Eoin Clarke, Andy Savage and Graham Clarke can galvanise the peninsula men against the demoralised midlanders who have parted company this week with manager Kevin Martin.
Derry boss Ger Rogan, meanwhile, is optimistic that his side can overcome Wicklow in the Division Three final at Longford.
The Oak Leaf team have reached a new level of consistency under Rogan and Ruairi Con
very, Mark Craig and Liam Hinphey can prove central to their hopes of success tomorrow.
And the Division Four title is certain to come to Ulster now that South Down and Tyrone will meet in tomorrow’s decider at Armagh.
Tyrone have undergone a huge transformation from last year and manager Tom Magill has instilled confidence, cohesion and passion in the team to such an extent that they could take possession of the divisional crown.
Fixtures: Tonight: Cadbury’s All-Ireland U21 Football Championship Semi-Finals: Cavan v Wexford (Parnell Park, Dublin 7.00), Cork v Galway (Cusack Park, Ennis 6.30). Tomorrow: Allianz National Hurling League Division Two (all matches at 2.30): Antrim v Limerick (Loughgiel), Westmeath v Down (Mullingar). Division 3A Final: Derry v Wicklow (Longford). Division Four Final: South Down v Tyrone (Athletic Grounds, Armagh).