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Kevin Niblock is fired up for Antrim's Croke Park mission

By John Campbell

He may have had his problems with injuries recently but Antrim captain Kevin Niblock will happily go through the pain barrier if it means mounting the Hogan Stand steps at Croke Park today to collect the Allianz League Division Four trophy.

Niblock, a polished playmaker and accurate finisher, hopes a fusion of these qualities will help to bring the Saffrons over the line against a Louth side striving to prove that they are a lot better than they showed in the recent drawn game between the teams.

Along with Michael McCann, Sean Burke, Kevin O'Boyle, Justin Crozier, Niall McKeever and Conor Murray, Niblock has soldiered at the coal face for longer than he might care to remember and that's why he attaches special significance to today's mission at Headquarters.

"It's rare enough for Antrim teams to get to play at Croke Park and you never turn your nose up on an occasion such as this," stated Niblock. "As well as giving us the chance to get our hands on a trophy, this affords us an ideal build-up to the Ulster Championship in which we will be meeting Fermanagh in just three weeks."

The intensity levels at recent training sessions coupled with the return of several players from injury means that Antrim go into the match fortified by a new ration of self-belief - a quality not always inherent in the county.

Yet the side's approach is laced with caution that is triggered by the thought that perhaps Louth did not show their hand in the drawn game.

"We know they will come at us this time and we have to be ready," said Niblock. "They had a good look at us when we played them but I think they will have more to offer."

Antrim have conceded just two goals to date and hope to keep a clean sheet again while at the other end Tomas McCann can deploy his blistering pace to good effect while Niblock's craft and subtle lay-offs will be instrumental.

Louth possess pace and power along with an ability to move the ball smoothly from defence to attack - something that could unsettle Antrim. But Niblock is convinced his team's current mind-set will stand to them.

He added: "I think it would be nice for the older hands to bring a cup home and this could provide the spur for us."



NFL Division Four Final:

Croke Park, Today, 4.00pm

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