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Ryan bids to keep Antrim in Division One

By John Campbell

 Play-off clash: Kevin Ryan wants to avoid the dropANTRIM hurlers have suddenly been entrusted with the task of attempting to deflect a double helping of relegation ignominy away from the county.

On Sunday, the football side slid into Division Four of the Allianz League when they lost to Monaghan and next weekend the hurling team face a make or break Division 1B play-off against Carlow from which the losers will make the drop into Division Two.

Football boss Frank Dawson has been left mystified by his team’s lack of consistency although his team’s penchant for leaking scores — they conceded 3-16 against Monaghan — contributed significantly to their fall from grace.

And in much the same vein, hurling manager Kevin Ryan has been striving to see his team gain a level of consistency in a league campaign in which only one win has been recorded to date, ironically against Carlow.

In a further twist, Ryan was Carlow boss before throwing in his lot with the Saffrons so he will be well acquainted with the opposition come Sunday.

And already he is making it quite clear that he is placing little emphasis on last month’s meeting.

“We came out on top that day but this guarantees us nothing in relation to next weekend’s game,” he said. “We want to stay up in Division One because that’s where we feel players can best develop by pitting themselves against the elite on a regular basis.”

Like Dawson, he has had to do without some key players but on the other hand a number of others with whom he has shown faith are beginning to come through strongly.

Antrim have faced sides such as Dublin and Limerick and while results have not gone their way, there is evidence that the team is maturing.

Players such as captain Neil McManus, defenders Aaron Graffin and Neal McAuley and emerging marksman Stephen Beatty have been leading by example.

Beatty is still only 20 but has been hugely impressive having started every league game and the O’Donovan Rossa man is looking forward to locking horns again with Carlow.

“As a team we only think about our own performances but in the days before a game it does cross your mind that you are about to play top-class hurlers. However, they are just players like we are so you give the best you can and see where that gets you,” said Beatty.

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