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Kevin Ryan rallies Antrim for acid test

By John Campbell

Four wins to date in the Leinster Championship, a Division 1B relegation shoot-out victory over Offaly and an Ulster title triumph at Down's expense back in February form the plus-points on Antrim hurlers' 2014 CV to date.

There have been low points, of course, but manager Kevin Ryan prefers to think positively as he prepares for a Leinster quarter-final clash with Wexford at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise on Sunday.

When they met in the league earlier this year at Ballycastle, the Slaneysiders claimed a one-point win on a day on which their hosts did not enjoy the rub of the green.

Now the time has arrived for a renewal of hostilities and Ryan believes Sunday's game is the most important that Antrim have faced for some time.

Ever since taking their baptism in the Leinster competition a few years ago, Antrim have harboured the hope that they might make significant progress sooner or later.

This year, the omens look good. The round robin format adopted by the Leinster Council has proved a stage on which Antrim have acquired cohesion, confidence and, perhaps most important of all, a winning mind-set.

While Ryan accepts that Wexford will be bolstered by a rich pedigree and renewed ambition, Ryan is placing in faith in Antrim to raise their game even further.

"This is a match which can bring the best of my players. The y have been challenging themselves ever since they first entered the Leinster Championship and now here they are in the national spotlight with a great chance to make it into the last eight, something that people might not have thought possible," said Ryan.

Skipper Neil McManus is counting down to the hours to what he sees as the acid test for his side.

"We know that we will only be judged on how we do against strong hurling counties and Wexford certainly come into this category," maintains McManus.

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