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McManus poised to point Antrim into better place in survival drive

 

By John Campbell

Neil McManus has been in hot scoring form to date for Antrim in the Allianz Hurling League and he will certainly have a key role when the side confront Laois at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise tonight (7.00) in a bid to pick up their first brace of points in Division 1B.

Successive defeats to Galway and Dublin have heaped pressure on the Saffrons who badly need a win to sustain their hopes of avoiding the drop back into Division Two again.

With Ciaran Clarke, Eoghan Campbell and Stephen Rooney still recovering from injuries, the Ulster champions' resources are somewhat trimmed but Gary O'Kane, one of the four-strong management team, is optimistic the side can still come good.

"Obviously Neil McManus has been our main scorer so far but players like Ciaran Johnston and James McNaughton have been chipping in as well," points out O'Kane. "People are saying that we should beat Laois but they seem to be forgetting that they have been up in this bracket for a while now whereas we have only come up this year."

The recently-married Aaron Graffin is expected to be in his usual defensive slot alongside players like John Dillon and Matthew Donnelly and their brief will be to curb a Laois attack which can flourish at home.

Meanwhile, Down host Armagh in Division 2B at Ballycran where they can expect to maintain their unbeaten record. Down have already beaten Donegal and Derry and, with Paul Sheehan and Danny Toner as well as Eoghan Sands in fine scoring form, they could cut loose again at the expense of the orchard county who have already lost to Wicklow and Mayo.

Derry, currently shorn of a raft of players, will host Mayo at Banagher tomorrow (1.00) knowing that nothing less than a win will do if they are to have any hope of retaining their divisional status.

Mayo will be boosted by their win over Armagh and may carry too much power for an Oak Leaf side that is currently short on experience.

Belfast Telegraph

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