We must hit a new level for league bid: Gleeson
Antrim manager Darren Gleeson got a taste of what is to come when his side were pipped by Offaly in the final of the Kehoe Cup on Sunday.
Offaly, along with Wicklow, Mayo, Meath and Kerry, are among teams who will be bracketed with the Saffrons when the Allianz League gets under way and Gleeson is fully aware that his side face a stiff challenge in their bid to gain promotion.
In winning the Conor McGurk Cup, Antrim were never severely tested but Offaly laid down a marker for the side in terms of the league.
Gleeson is aware, too, that while several members of his side have been showing consistency since competitive action resumed, others have still to step up to the mark.
"There were a few performances on Sunday that need to come up to what we would expect of them," said Gleeson. "It was a pity to miss out on silverware on Sunday but hopefully we can learn from this. Obviously we will have much more difficult matches ahead and we must be ready for them."
Between them, Neil McManus and Keelan Molloy scored 0-14 with the bulk of the former's points coming from frees while the latter's were all from play.
Antrim will cross swords with Wicklow in their opening league game on Sunday week prior to their first home fixture against Mayo at Loughgiel on Sunday, February 2.
Gleeson is particularly keen that his side should pick up points from these games to ensure that they remain in the hunt for promotion.
Domhnall Nugent, Niall McKenna and Gerard Walsh were among players who have been impressive of late but with scope for further experimentation limited, Gleeson is likely to settle with the panel that started last weekend.
The expectation is that the Saffrons might hurdle Wicklow even though they will be away from home and this would see them gain traction for the game against Mayo, who are invariably difficult opponents.
After that, Gleeson's men face two difficult away ties against Offaly and Kerry, both of whom are expected to figure strongly in the promotion race.