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Get behind Saffrons in glory bid: Neil McManus

By John Campbell

Antrim senior hurling skipper Neil McManus has made a heartfelt plea to fans throughout Ulster to get behind his county's Under 21 team when they confront Clare in tomorrow's All-Ireland U21 semi-final in Thurles.

McManus, until recently a team mentor, is convinced that it will take a tidal wave of goodwill to encourage the Saffrons who are facing a side that has won the last two All-Ireland titles and reigned supreme as Munster champions since 2012.

"Clare have an unbelievable record at Under-21 level lately and while Antrim face overwhelming odds, I have no doubt that with a bit of vocal backing and the knowledge that all of Ulster is behind them, they can give a good account of themselves," maintains McManus.

Last year Clare cruised past Antrim in the final 2-28 to 0-12 while in 2012 they beat Kilkenny 2-17 to 2-11 and, with a raft of players available from 2013, they are in pole position to retain their All-Ireland crown.

But McManus believes that if the Ulster champions can gain any sort of leverage at midfield, then they have forwards capable of putting scores on the board.

"Daniel McKernan and Ciaran Clarke, both of whom have senior experience, are capable of making their mark. We know that Clare are tight defensively but that does not mean that they cannot be breached," claims McManus.

"Obviously they will go into the game in confident mood given their awesome recent track record but if Antrim can avoid having to chase the game then they could be in with a chance."

McKernan is a nephew of former Antrim manager Jim McKernan and is a skilful attacking player while Clarke has made a big impact in the senior sector since being afforded his chance by manager Kevin Ryan who will oversee operations tomorrow.

Dual star Jackson McGreevey, too, is set to have a pivotal role.

"The likes of Jackson and others can impose themselves. One thing is for sure, they cannot afford too many wides," he adds.

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