Antrim v St. Mary’s
Wednesday (Woodlands 8-00)
There is little at stake but pride as Antrim conclude their McKenna Cup campaign when the take on St. Mary’s at Woodlands tonight. Theoretically the ranch could still gain a place in the semi-finals if they were to beat Antrim by a massive score and Armagh were to inflict the same punishment on Monaghan in their concluding game. Neither scenario looks likely.
The students took a heavy hammering from Armagh first day out while Antrim fell by six points to Monaghan in Clones but St. Mary’s showed vast improvement when drawing with Monaghan last Sunday while Antrim were being put to the sword by Armagh in Glenavy.
Manager Lenny Harbison has said from the start that he would use the McKenna Cup to look at players in preparation for the league and to date he has blooded a number of new faces. His hands have been tied somewhat by the unavailability of quite a number of last year’s panel. Only time will tell if the new additions to the panel will cut the mustard in the cut and thrust of the National League division 4.
The students have a Sigerson Cup opener in a week’s time and manager Gavin McGilly has indicated that there will be changes in tonight’s side with Balinderry’s Shane McGuigan, who scored 1-3 against Monaghan unlikely to start.
The Ranch shipped 6-17 in their opening game but raised a few eyebrows in drawing with an experimental Monaghan on Sunday and by all accounts were unlucky not to gain both points. McGilly was glowing in his praise of their efforts and could probably have done without tonight’s ‘dead rubber ‘and will make a number of changes with Sigerson in mind.
Daniel McKinless (Baliderry) and Niall Toner (Lavey) will join Ryan McSherry (Whitecross) in an attack that could still present the Antrim defence with plenty of problems. He has also included Piaras McSorley (Newtownstewart) who will be given his chance at full-back and Kevin Muldoon of Eglish in a changed side.
At the time of writing Antrim haven’t named a side but it is likely to show a number of changes from Sunday’s lineout against Armagh. Ryan Murray and Ruairi McCann were unable to take part in that game due to injuries and Paddy Brannigan retired with an early injury and whether either or all are available tonight remains to be seen.
I have a hunch that the Saffrons will go with a more experienced starting lineout however and Paddy Nugent, Niall Delargy and Fintan Burke who came on as second half substitutes on Sunday, could get a start. With only pride at stake this one looks difficult to predict but a win would certainly boost Antrim’s confidence as they look forward to difficult division 4 openers against Derry and Wexford and I expect them to edge tonight’s game.