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Peden ensuring Antrim remain focused

 

Crunch tie: Neal Peden knows his men must beat Offaly
Crunch tie: Neal Peden knows his men must beat Offaly
John Campbell

By John Campbell

How times have changed. Thirty years ago when Antrim overcame Offaly in the All-Ireland Hurling Championship semi-final to book their place in the decider against Tipperary, the media had access to the changing rooms afterwards, shared in the fruit and soft drinks that were being dispensed and had the craic with manager Jim Nelson and his backroom team.

It's all rather different now, of course, but when the Saffrons and Offaly renew their rivalry in the Joe McDonagh Cup today at Tullamore (3pm) they will be doing so against a rather contrasting backdrop to then.

For a start, Offaly have conceded a whopping 7-20 in their two games to date in the competition, Joachim Kelly has been drafted in as interim manager, the word 'crisis' dominates any conversation on hurling and fans are in the depths of despair.

Antrim are somewhat better off but well below what it now takes to claim a place in the last-four of the All-Ireland series.

An opening romp against Kerry (3-19 to 0-14) in the Joe McDonagh Cup held the rich promise that the Saffrons might flourish even more against Laois, but a 2-24 to 1-19 reverse against the midland outfit emphatically halted Neal Peden's troops in their stride.

"I know Offaly hurling is said to be at a low ebb but we have to focus on our own game," insisted Peden.

Meanwhile, Derry can take a big step towards claiming the Christy Ring Cup if they beat Wicklow at Owenbeg today (3pm).

Down will travel to play Donegal at Letterkenny (3pm) fortified by their win over Wicklow.

And in the Nicky Rackard Cup Group One, Armagh need to win against Longford, while Monaghan face a tricky assignment at home to Warwickshire.

In Group Two, Tyrone manager Mattie Lennon is hoping to see his attack catch fire against Louth at Healy Park, Omagh (3pm).

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