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Johnston keen to see Saffrons get into an early groove in Cup

All set: Ciaran Johnston wants to get off to a flying start
All set: Ciaran Johnston wants to get off to a flying start
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Antrim hurler Ciaran Johnston is eager for his side to enjoy a boost when the Conor McGurk Cup competition swings into action this weekend.

The Saffrons are planning to launch a concerted drive to achieve promotion in the Allianz League and Johnston believes that the McGurk Cup will provide an ideal stepping stone in this context.

"It will give us a chance to find our rhythm and get a bit of cohesion going. There are nine teams in there altogether so competition will be keen. Obviously every side will want to make an early impact," stated Johnston.

New Antrim manager Darren Gleeson will take stock of his side with a view to encouraging fresh talent.

Queen's University, who are hosting the tournament, will meet Down at the Dub on Sunday (12.30pm) while Armagh will travel to meet Longford at the Peace 3 Park in Clones.

Both Armagh and Down will be short of some regulars but Armagh boss Padraig O'Connor will blood some new talent against a Longford side that contains a mix of youth and experience.

"There are some lads that we would like to have a close look at because obviously there are big challenges awaiting us down the line and we will certainly need strength in depth at our disposal," pointed out O'Connor.

Meanwhile, former Armagh player Declan Coulter, who is currently plying his trade with Donegal, was in the 27-strong PwC All-Stars hurling squad that flew to Abu Dhabi from Dublin yesterday where they will embark on a five-day tour.

Antrim's Neil McManus is also in the touring party which is comprised of 2018 and 2019 All-Stars and nominees and which also includes a number of representatives from the Champions 15 team.

In all there are players from 13 different counties in the travelling party with Tipperary's All-Ireland-winning manager Liam Sheedy taking charge of the 2019 selection and former Cork manager John Meyler looking after the 2018 team.

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