Harbinson keen to unearth fresh talent as Championship draws near
Antrim football boss Lenny Harbinson will undertake a scouting mission tomorrow in advance of his team's forthcoming Ulster Senior Championship quarter-final against the winners of the Tyrone v Derry preliminary round tie.
It may be deemed rather late in the season in some quarters to conduct a trawl for fresh talent, but the absence of a number of key players means that Harbinson must forgo the opportunity to weigh up Derry when they meet Leitrim in the Division Four final at Croke Park.
Long-term injury victim Conor Murray is working his way back to full fitness, while Peter Healy and Mark Sweeney are exam-tied in Dublin.
Kevin O'Boyle is still undergoing rehabilitation following injury, Kristian Healy is also recovering from a knock and both Sean Burke and Sean McVeigh have retired.
In all, Harbinson is missing twelve players from last year, which not only deprives his line-up of a considerable ration of experience but impacts substantially on the strength in depth he'll be able to call upon.
"We know that whether we meet Derry or Tyrone it is going to be very difficult," says Harbinson.
"Tyrone were in the All-Ireland final last year, they finished the league strongly this month and they have come up with a fresh attacking strategy.
"But we should not forget that Derry have successfully introduced a number of Under-20 players while still retaining a number of very good older, established players."
While Harbinson studies his resources, he can take comfort from the fact that Ryan Murray, Matt Fitzpatrick and Patrick McBride have been in top scoring form over the course of the league while Patrick Gallagher and skipper Declan Lynch have cemented their reputations in defence.
"You don't like to be without experienced players for a Championship match but I always press upon the boys that they should want to do themselves justice," points out Harbinson.
"It's not often they get the chance to play in front of 10,000 people, so they will have an opportunity to step into the spotlight."
Antrim last reached the Ulster final ten years ago and, although the odds on them progressing to that stage this summer would be long, Harbinson still believes his side is capable of ruffling a few feathers.
"I think there is a good attitude within the side, they won't be fazed by whoever they will meet and they are keen to build on their recent league form," adds Harbinson.