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Peden shows faith in new faces for Kerry tie

 

Big task: Antrim manager Neal Peden faces a stiff league opener
Big task: Antrim manager Neal Peden faces a stiff league opener
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Antrim hurling manager Neal Peden is hopeful an infusion of fresh talent will help to compensate for the absence of a number of more experienced players when his side begin their Allianz League Division 2A campaign against Kerry at Corrigan Park, Belfast today (2.00).

Stripped of the services of his Cushendall contingent because of the club's forthcoming All-Ireland club semi-final against St Thomas (Galway) and further handicapped by the absence of several other players who have not committed for this year, Peden is hopeful that new faces will spring to the fore to provide optimism.

"Obviously we have to go with what we have but we believe we have talented players at our disposal who are ready for the challenge that Division Two hurling will offer," says Peden.

James O'Connell and Sean Duffin are expected to link up with the exciting James McNaughton and Keelan Molloy in a side hoping to claim an early tonic in the league.

Kerry, though, are never less than formidable opponents and their fusion of experience and pace will certainly pose big problems for the Saffrons.

Down, meanwhile, hope to build on their recent Conor McGurk Cup final triumph over University of Ulster when they host Derry at Pairc Esler Newry today (5.00).

Manager Ronan Sheehan has watched his side evolve and feels that they are now in a position to make their pitch for promotion.

Sheehan, thorough and meticulous in his approach, will look to players such as Caolan Taggart, Matt Conlon, Eoghan Sands and Conor Woods to spark his side's challenge.

Paul Sheehan has already revealed his midas scoring touch this year having landed 0-11 in the 1-19 to 0-19 McGurk Cup final coup.

New Derry manager John McEvoy will have an opportunity of assessing the talent at his disposal with experienced trio Liam Og Hinphey, Alan Grant and Tim Rankin capable of setting the tone for his team's performance.

Another Ulster manager hoping for an encouraging start to the league is Tyrone's Mattie Lennon, who will parade a number of new faces in his side that will meet Lancashire at Abbotstown, Dublin today (2.00).

Once again the Red Hands will depend to a large extent on the accurate Damien Casey for scores while skipper Dermot Begley, Matthew Mulgrew, Ryan McKernan and Jarlath Kerry can prove key players in their side.

Armagh will face Monaghan in Division 3A at Inniskeen tomorrow (12.30) and manager Padraig O'Connor is hopeful that his side can make an early impact in the competition following their indifferent form in the Conor McGurk Cup.

"We are still missing some players but Monaghan will be an early challenge for us and we need to be on our toes from the outset of the competition," says O'Connor who took over in the middle of last year after Paddy Kelly left.

Fermanagh face a tricky assignment in Division 3B against a Sligo side that has undergone changes while Cavan will meet Leitrim in the same sector.

The Ernesiders will place their faith in youth in a bid to mount a serious promotion challenge but are nonetheless likely to find the going tough in this respect.

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