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Saffrons ready to hit the ground running

 

Victory aim: Antrim boss Neal Peden seeks flying start
Victory aim: Antrim boss Neal Peden seeks flying start
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Antrim will face Kerry in the Joe McDonagh Cup at Dunloy this evening (5pm) hoping to get off the mark against a Kingdom side with whom they have had some formidable battles lately.

James McNaughton was the ace in the Saffrons' pack during the Allianz League, while a number of other players will now get a further opportunity to bed down in the side.

Manager Neal Peden and skipper Conor McCann are keen to see their side hit the ground running in the knowledge that claiming Kerry's scalp at this juncture could pave the way to even better things as the competition unfolds.

"We would like to make a good start as this would give us a big boost," says McCann.

Meanwhile, Tyrone hurling manager Mattie Lennon had his own particular way of preparing for his team's opening game in the Nicky Rackard Cup - he ran the Belfast Marathon.

For the supremely fit Lennon, it was just a straightforward exercise, but he does not view his team's mission against Mayo at Healy Park, Omagh tomorrow (2pm) in quite the same light.

Mayo have been knocking on the door of the more elite hurling fraternity of late and Lennon is expecting a torrid challenge for his side.

"This will be a big test for us," concedes Lennon. "Mayo have retained their place in Division 2A which speaks for itself."

The all-Ulster tie between Down and Derry at Portaferry today (3pm) in the Christy Ring Cup should be a lively affair.

Down boss Ronan Sheehan will be looking to players such as Oisin McManus and Eoghan Sands to post scores, while the Oak Leaf management duo of Johnny McGuirk and John McEvoy get the opportunity to appraise further fresh talent in their side.

Armagh, now under Padraig O'Connor, will meet neighbours Monaghan in the Nicky Rackard Cup today (3pm) at the Athletic Grounds.

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