NFL Division 4
Antrim v Wexford
Antrim begin another NFL division 4 campaign this Sunday when they take on Wexford in Glenavy and a win over the Leinster side would set up the Saffrons for what looks on paper like a difficult season. Manager Lenny Harbision has stated that success for his side this season would be promotion to division 3 and anything less will be regarded as failure in some quarters.
The Antrim manager’s cause hasn’t been helped by the defection to soccer of Matthew Fitzpatrick, Stephen Beatty and Padraig Nugent while Patrick McCormick is unavailable due to a placement at University College Galway.
Top forward, Ryan Murray is another who is unavailable owing to work commitments in the Middle East while it is unclear whether the recalled Tomas McCann and Paddy Cunningham will be available for Sunday’s opener in Glenavy.
McCann underwent minor surgery recently while Cunningham sustained a hamstring injury and neither took any part in Antrim’s McKenna Cup campaign this year. Despite these setbacks Antrim enjoyed a promising McKenna Cup campaign, beating Fermanagh in Ahoghill in their opening game but losing to Down in Newry.
The Antrim management have made a number of call-ups with Oisin Kerr of Creggan vying with Rasharkin’s Eamon Hasson for the goalkeeping spot and Ronan Delargy of Portglenone, Ben Rice and Marc Jordan of Lamh Dhearg, Eamon Fyfe of Glenravel, Ciaran Garland and Ryan McNulty, St. Johns, Adam Loughran, Aghagallon and Eoin Nagle and Ruairi Scott of St. Enda’s hoping to make their National League debut.
The return of Conor Murray after a long injury, Peter Healy, Odhran Eastwood and Conor Small adds a wee bit of experience to the panel and manager Harbison and his backroom team will have taken encouragement from the performance of their side in the McKenna Cup.
Marc Jordan had a good game at mid-field against Fermanagh, Paddy McBride scored two spectacular goals to turn that game on its head and Ruairi McCann was outstanding at full-forward in both games, the Aghagallon man finally turning the promise he has shown at club level into his county performances.
Visitors Wexford have had their share of problems since the appointment of Paul Galvin as manager and his decision to drop Michael Furlong, Daithi Waters and Matt Doyle from the panel has not gone down well with Kevin O’Grady and Tiernan Rossiter leaving the panel in protest.
They lost all three of their O’Byrne Cup games against Westmeath, Offaly and Laois but these were always going to be difficult opponents and Galvin and his side will be hoping to reverse their losing trait when they make the long journey North on Sunday.
Just who will start for Antrim is not known at the time of writing with Ricky Johnston of Creggan limping out of the Down game early. Captain Declan Lynch, James McAuley, Colum Duffin, Ruairi McCann and Paddy McBride started both McKenna Cup games while Patrick Gallagher, Niall Delargy and Odhran Eastwood are likely to get the nod.
Conor Murray will surely play feature at some stage as he continues his rehabilitation and Lenny Harbison will be hoping that Paddy Cunningham and Tomas McCann will be able to play some part in Sunday’s game but whoever the Antrim management call upon are capable of getting this year’s National League campaign off to a winning start.
We at the Saffron Gael appeal to Antrim supporters to come along and get behind their side at Glenavy on Sunday as they aim to get off to a winning start.