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Gall’s heroes McGourty and Niblock miss opener

Antrim, Ulster and All Ireland club football champions St Gall’s have been dealt a blow even before they have kicked a ball in the new domestic championship.

Kevin McGourty and Kevin Niblock, heroes when St Gall’s landed their triple title coup, are both in the United States and will miss the team’s match against Moneyglass on August 22.

McGourty (pictured, right) and Niblock both played for Antrim in the Ulster championship and in the All Ireland Qualifiers defeat to Kildare and their absence will be keenly felt in the St Gall’s attack, although manager Lenny Harbinson believes he has players who can step into the breach.

On a more encouraging note, it is expected CJ McGourty, who left for the US just a few days before Antrim met Kildare, will return in time for St Gall’s opening game.

While manager Harbinson focuses in the short term on retaining the Antrim title, county team boss Liam Bradley has already been busily engaged in putting a number of players under the microscope with a view to strengthening his line-up for next year.

Antrim liaison officer Tony McCollum has revealed that “some positions require strengthening” and to this end a trawl of talent is being conducted that encompasses the entire senior championship programme within the county.

“We will also be looking at matches in the intermediate and junior championships to try and ensure that no player slips through the selection net.”

With Bradley, of course, having confirmed that he will be remaining with Antrim despite the fact that his name has been linked with Derry, there is now speculation that Malachy O’Rourke, who has just stood down as Fermanagh boss, could take over the Oak Leaf county reins along with his assistant Johnny McBride.

Meanwhile, Ahoghill produced a big surprise in the senior championship when they beat fancied Lamh Dhearg for whom Antrim ace Paddy Cunningham scored seven points to leave them 0-7 to 0-1 ahead.

But substitute P J O’Connell, who has been making a name for himself with the Antrim hurlers this year and played against Cork in the recent All Ireland quarter-final, turned the game round, producing a stunning performance that cemented his team’s recovery while another substitute, Justin Downey, was impressive at the back in the second-half.

Portglenone were not unduly troubled by Gort na mona and won by 3-10 to 2-4.

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