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Saffrons now sucked into relegation dog-fight

 

By John Campbell

Antrim have left themselves with a mountain to climb if they hope to survive in Division 1B of the Allianz Hurling League following their third successive defeat at the hands of Laois at the weekend.

Despite a courageous performance that was highlighted by some superb individual contributions, the Saffrons were unable to stay the distance and went down by 0-27 to 2-16.

Ross King accumulated 0-15 for the winners in a stunning display of accuracy while Neil McManus landed 0-11 for the Ulster champions with Nigel Elliott pilfering 1-1.

Eoghan Campbell and Elliott bagged Antrim's goals and for the spell the team looked as if they might steal a march on their hosts.

But Laois drew on the inspiration provided by King who was joined by Shane Downey in firing over a late brace of points that copper-fastened their team's victory.

Antrim now face a huge challenge to retain their status in the top tier.

They must confront Limerick at Cushendall and then travel to Offaly in their last two games and nothing less than maximum points from these will suffice if the side is to have any chance of remaining in Division One.

While there have been encouraging signs from their performances to date, there is no doubt that the step up to Division 1B has presented a whole new challenge for the players and management.

There was disappointment, too, for Derry who have yet to win a match in Division 2B with three rounds of fixtures played.

Their latest conquerors were Mayo who took their lead from football star Keith Higgins. Not only did he chalk up four points in the side's 0-13 to 0-10 win but crucially he deployed all his experience in calling the tune as his team showed energy and resilience in closing out the game.

Sean Kenny and Kenny Feeney along with Shane Boland all played their parts in assembling the Mayo total while Paul Cleary, Alan Grant, Darragh Curtin and Oisin McCLoskey were to the fore for the Oak Leaf side.

Also in Division 2B Down retained their drive for promotion by getting the better of struggling Armagh.

The winners were ahead by 2-10 to 0-5 at half-time with Paul Sheehan and Danny Toner registering their goals and they went on to triumph by 3-15 to 0-13.

Eoghan Sands scored a third goal in the 36th minute to give Down an unassailable lead and although Conor McAnallen and David Carville did their best to keep Armagh afloat, their team was simply outclassed on the day.

New manager Paddy Kelly certainly has his hands full as he bids to revive Armagh's fortunes.

Down, in sharp contrast, have now put themselves into a strong position for promotion and have also sent out the message that they might become a stronger force with the passage of time.

A massive input that yielded 2-11 from the free-scoring Damien Casey helped to underpin Tyrone's hard-earned 2-15 to 0-17 win over Monaghan in Division 3A. Monaghan battled grimly with Fergal Rafter in hot shooting form. He landed 10 points with Niall Garland also getting on the scoresheet.

Belfast Telegraph

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