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Hurling: Dominic McKinley's guiding hand for son Conor

By John Campbell

Conor McKinley is proving to be a chip off the old block right now with Antrim's hurlers.

And this being the case he is quickly becoming familiar with the pressures involved in belonging to a team that is constantly striving to gain credibility.

They get another chance to aspire to this modest goal when they step out against Laois in Division 1B of the Allianz League tomorrow conscious that a third successive defeat will leave them confronting the relegation trap-door.

Twenty-four year old McKinley, a rapidly maturing full-back, will be at the heart of a defence that is further buttressed by the seasoned Simon McCrory and Neal McAuley yet while he takes comfort from those around him, it's to his dad Dominic that he invariably looks for inspiration.

And with good reason, too. McKinley snr was a key member of the Antrim side that showed courage, steel and skill before bowing the knee to Tipperary in the 1989 All-Ireland final.

He subsequently served two different stints as Saffrons boss, one of them in tandem with his former comrade-in-arms Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton.

It follows then that Dominic, now in his early 50s, is well-equipped to offer a guiding hand to his son whose defensive qualities have impressed Antrim boss Kevin Ryan. Defeats against Wexford and Limerick last month have served to intensify the need for the Saffrons to come good against a Laois side that has already lost to Offaly and fallen to Cork.

"This Antrim side is a good mix of experienced players and others who are finding their feet at senior level," says Dominic.

"What we want to avoid is to have to go into a play-off fixture for the right to remain in Division One. That's what makes winning against Laois so important."

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