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Getting out of Division Four Antrim's primary aim: Lynch

 

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Lead role: Declan Lynch is out to keep up the momentum

Lead role: Declan Lynch is out to keep up the momentum

�INPHO/Declan Roughan

Lead role: Declan Lynch is out to keep up the momentum

Antrim skipper Declan Lynch has his sights set on what has become something of a relatively rare feat for his team - back-to-back wins in a major competition.

Having overcome Wexford in some style last Sunday, Lynch will lead his men into battle against Sligo on Sunday conscious that a win might even spark whispers of promotion.

But Lynch has experienced disappointment in the past and, like his playing colleagues, is focused only on the Yeats county as they bid to build on their impressive opening outing.

"Our main aim is to get out of Division Four. We failed to achieve this last year but we have been working to get everything in place and we feel we are making headway in this respect," Lynch said.

"The McKenna Cup provided a good stepping stone for us with that win over Fermanagh, and now, having beaten Wexford, we have to believe that we can go on from here. The ball is at our toe, if you like."

Antrim have already shown indications that they can acquit themselves creditably even without top drawer forwards such as Matthew Fitzpatrick and Ryan Murray, and Lynch is quick to pinpoint what he feels are plus-factors in this respect.

"Players like Paddy Cunningham have come in and brought a lot of experience to the table," Lynch added.

"You have only to look at the impact they made against Wexford, and this is only the tip of the iceberg as I see it."

The return of Peter Healy and the form of James McAuley at centre-half-back are two significant Antrim plus-factors as they target a second successive win.

Healy missed out last year because of his studies at UCD but has made a big impression since returning to the side, much to the delight of skipper Lynch.

"It's great to see Peter back in there because he is a great player," said Lynch.

"And it's also very encouraging to see James McAuley performing so well. He got good experience with St Enda's on the Ulster and All-Ireland clubs stage last year and this is certainly standing to him."

With Patrick McBride on song and Marc Jordan having turned in a hugely impressive performance against Wexford in what was his league debut, the Saffrons are beginning to acquire an albeit modest level of strength in depth. Competition for starting places is slowly but surely hotting up, and with other players due to return, the intensity in training will be stepped up.

It was inconsistency that denied Antrim the chance to figure in the promotion race last year and hence it is no great surprise to see Lynch in his role as captain putting such a strong emphasis on stringing together back-to-back wins.

"Obviously we would love a longer sequence of success if that were possible, but from small acorns mighty oaks grow, and maybe that very welcome win over Wexford will prove the launch-pad for better times ahead," Lynch added.

While Antrim manager Lenny Harbinson continues to tinker with the nuts and bolts of his side, his Sligo counterpart Paul Taylor is keeping his fingers crossed that his team's win over London last Sunday will not be "a one-off affair", as he puts it.

If the win pleased former county star Taylor, then the fact that his side accumulated 5-8 in the process was even more satisfying.

"It was great to get a first win after we had not won a game in 2019," Taylor revealed.

"But the most important thing was it was the first game in the league. We went over to London and got two points, but I think every team in the country wanted to win their opening round game last weekend.

"We were one of the lucky ones to achieve this and now the big challenge for us is to make the most of our home advantage against Antrim, who will come to us on Sunday in good heart after that win over Wexford."

Belfast Telegraph