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Antrim fall at first hurdle but have their sights fixed on Dublin

 

By John Campbell

Antrim hurlers experienced frustration in their opening game of the Walsh Cup when they were pipped at the post (1-17 to 0-19) by Meath at the weekend.

The sides were deadlocked at half time (1-9 to 0-12) and it remained nip and tuck for the greater part of the second-half.

The Saffrons looked to have earned what would have been a deserved share of the spoils when Neil McManus potted a point in the third minute of added time but his effort was trumped almost immediately by Meath's Neil Heffernan who saw his shot sail between the posts to give his team victory.

Yet while they lost out in the end, there were several plus factors which Antrim can take from the game, notably the scoring prowess of players such as Eoin O'Neill, Conor McKinley, Daniel McCluskey and of course the vastly experienced McManus.

James Kelly proved a thorn in Antrim's side and his first-half goal in particular proved a crucial score while his seven points cemented his influence on the contest.

Antrim will now set their sights on a tough assignment against Dublin at Parnell Park on Sunday next in the same competition.

Slaughtneil, meanwhile, continued their build-up to the All-Ireland club hurling championship semi-final against Limerick and Munster champions Na Piarsaigh on February 10 by running the Tipperary senior team close in a keenly-contested challenge game on Saturday.

The Munster outfit won by 1-22 to 3-10 but Slaughtneil manager Michael McShane took considerable satisfaction from the outcome.

Sé McGuigan landed two goals and Sean Cassidy excelled at full-back as the Derry and Ulster champions matched their opponents for pace and work-rate.

"It was a very satisfying exercise and a valuable stepping stone in our All-Ireland club semi-final preparations," said McShane,

"Obviously we will be stepping up our programme but it's a case of so far so good from our perspective."

"To get a match such as this against Tipperary can only reap benefits from our perspective and I would like to think that they derived some good from it as well."

"It is only by testing ourselves against quality sides that we will become better and Na Piarsaigh are certainly in that bracket so we will need to be at our best to meet the challenge."

Meanwhile, in the Conor McGurk Cup tomorrow night, Down will face Queen's University at Upper Malone.

Queen's have already lost to Donegal and will be anxious to make an impact in the competition which they themselves are hosting.

Also tomorrow night, Antrim will meet the University of Ulster at Jordanstown. The Saffrons' management are expected to run the rule over some new faces as they step up their bid to formulate a settled side for the season ahead.

They are favourites to win the competition.

Belfast Telegraph

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