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Antrim must shine after sloppy start

It's a long way from the lofty environs of Croke Park to the homely surroundings of St Mary's Ahoghill, but the passion and fervour so endemic at Headquarters will be transferred there on Sunday.

That's because, in the words of secretary Frankie Quinn, Antrim will find themselves in "a real cup final" even though only one round of the Allianz League has been played so far.

The Saffrons' shattering defeat by Leitrim at Carrick-on-Shannon last Sunday has added a whole new dimension to Wicklow's visit this weekend.

A second defeat prior to the three-week league sabbatical would leave Liam Bradley's side facing an uphill battle in their frenetic bid to regain their Division Three status.

Quinn, ever the realist, focuses a stark light on a match that could have huge repercussions for his county.

"There's no doubt about it, this is our cup final," said Quinn.

"It's a must-win fixture. Time was when teams could amble through the start of the league, but that day is gone. We need two points from this game."

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Manager Bradley watched in almost disbelief as Antrim pressed the self-destruct button to some extent last Sunday against a Leitrim side that had entered the contest buoyed by the retention of their Connacht FBD League title the previous weekend when they beat Roscommon.

"We made things hard for ourselves and now we have to seek redemption against Wicklow which is not going to be easy," said Bradley.

"We must continue to have faith in ourselves. Our ambition is still to win promotion, nothing less."

In contrast to Antrim's below-par opening to the league, Wicklow strode to an impressive victory over London, last season's beaten Connacht finalists.

And the performance of their full-forward line of Conor McGraynor, Leighton Glynn and Seanie Furlong in that game should serve as a warning to Antrim.

Veteran Glynn scored 3-3 of Wicklow's 3-13 total, to which London could only post 1-8 in replay.

"I think if the team throws off the shackles and the fans get behind them, then anything is possible. We will need this unity of purpose if a win is to be obtained," said Quinn.

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