Saffrons face tricky task in bid to reach closing stages
Antrim and Cavan head into the All-Ireland football qualifiers today in the knowledge that they face a difficult route in their bid to reach the closing stages of the series.
The Saffrons face a hazardous mission against Laois while Cavan look to have a more straightforward task against lowly London, but both know they have much ground to make up after their exit from the Ulster Championship.
Antrim manager Frank Fitzsimons may be resigned to being without Ricky Johnston, Sean McVeigh and Niall McKeever for the trip to O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, but he nonetheless believes that has sufficient strength in depth to bolster his line-up.
And among the players who will get game time against the midlands outfit is newcomer Jack Dowling.
"He is a strong, resolute competitor, just the kind of player that is needed in the heat of battle," says the Antrim boss.
The red card issued to Sean McVeigh was a contributory factor in the team's loss to Fermanagh in the Ulster Championship and his absence robs Antrim of one of their most versatile players.
McVeigh has played at full-back and midfield in the recent past for Antrim. "Obviously we would prefer to have Sean available to us but we must go with what we have," says Fitzsimons.
The loss of Ricky Johnston may be felt at the back by the Saffrons as he can be an imposing figure but on the credit side C J McGourty's finishing against Fermanagh was such that he could play a big part in keeping the side afloat.
Cavan manager Terry Hyland, meanwhile, is aware that his side are hotter than hot favourites to heap more ignominy on London and for this reason he is preaching caution.
"On their own ground, London can be difficult to beat if they hit form and we can take nothing for granted," he said.