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Gleeson keen to see Antrim take step up to join the hurling elite

 

Antrim begin their campaign in Division 2B of the Allianz Hurling League against a familiar foe tomorrow.

Last month the Saffrons overcame Wicklow 0-21 to 0-13 in the Kehoe Cup and now the sides will renew their rivalry in what is expected to be a much more high-intensity game given that vital league points are at stake.

Manager Darren Gleeson has already made it clear that he would like to see Antrim take a step up this year and to this end he will send a more experienced team into battle.

James McNaughton, Alec Delargy, Conor McCann and Neil McManus will provide a rich helping of experience with Gerard Walsh and Niall McKenna expected to be among those who will complement this with their youthful exuberance.

Antrim were pipped by Offaly in the recent Kehoe Cup final by a point but Gleeson feels that that game will serve his team well in terms of tomorrow's contest against a Wicklow side that has been struggling to find its rhythm.

McNaughton and McManus have been in fine scoring form lately but Gleeson is taking nothing for granted in view of the tough fixtures ahead.

Meanwhile Down manager Ronan Sheehan is expected to be without Daithi Sands and Paul Sheehan for tomorrow's tricky opening Division 2B game against Derry at Celtic Park (2.00).

Both players are extremely capable finishers and their absence might blunt their team's scoring edge although manager Sheehan remains confident that he has other players who can step up to the mark.

Oak Leaf boss John McEvoy is shorn of the services of a number of players for a variety of reasons but still believes he has a panel that could do themselves justice in the league.

Sean Leo McGoldrick and Brendan Rogers are among the players who are missing but John O'Dwyer and Eoghan Cassidy are welcome additions to the squad.

Tyrone will be hoping to get their league programme off to a winning start when they face Louth while Donegal will host Armagh.

Tyrone have brought in some new faces and should get off to a winning start against Louth while Armagh boss Padraig O'Connor concedes that his side face a very stiff test against Donegal.

Fermanagh will also be in action when they face Leitrim.

The Ernesiders will face a youthful team against their neighbours and could get off to a winning start.

Belfast Telegraph