Promotion trail continues for Saffrons as Mayo visit Loughgiel

Allianz Hurling League Division 2A

Antrim v Mayo

Sunday February 2nd @ Fr Healy Park, Loughgiel

By Brendan McTaggart

Antrim return to league action this Sunday with their first home match of the campaign and the visit of Mayo to Loughgiel.  Following last Sunday’s win against Wicklow in the Garden County, the Saffrons will be hoping to maintain their winning start as they welcome the men from the West to Fr Healy Park.

Darren Gleeson’s men didn’t exactly set the world on fire against Wicklow in their league opener yet still managed to leave Arklow with a nine point victory.  They laboured for much of the first half before firing eight unanswered points after the restart having held a one point lead at the interval.

Gerard Walsh maintains his place at right half back after a confident display against Wicklow last weekend.

All credit should go to Wicklow though as they set up to stifle Antrim in attack and flooded their defence, tackled with intensity at the breakdown and in general made life hugely difficult for the Saffrons.  That along with the pitch in Arklow certainly looking worse for wear and in need of the mower going around it a couple of times ensured that it wasn’t quite the day at the office Antrim had when they dismantled Wicklow in the Kehoe Cup at Abbotstown.  Then again, do you blame them?  Antrim hockeyed them that day and they made sure they were going to make home advantage count.  From pristine, carpet like surface to, well, the non-pristine and carpet like surface in Arklow.  It took Antrim the majority of the first half to adjust but when they did, they began to go through the gears and do enough to win the game.

Neil McManus top scored with ten of his 11 points coming from play while he showed fight and desire for the full 70 minutes and played in a number of roles.  The half back line all excelled with Paddy Burke in the centre putting in another accomplished display and has become one of the first names on the Antrim team sheet. 

Conor McCann makes his return on Sunday following injury

The Antrim attack struggled for long periods and were reliant on McManus’ exploits from placed ball.  Keelan Molloy continues to be side-lined as he recovers from appendicitis while Conal Cunning also remains on the injury list.  James McNaughton tore Wicklow apart in the Kehoe Cup in a breath-taking 20 minute cameo and it’s fair to say he was a marked man last Sunday.  He was the most fouled man in the Antrim team with five of McManus’ frees coming as a result of infringements on McNaughton while Dan McCloskey came to life in the second half.  Both lads will relish playing in a Saffron shirt on their home ground and retain their places in the starting 15.  The introduction of Conor Johnston at half time gave them a different dynamic with his trickery and guile but Eoghan Campbell’s emergence in the second half was another reason why the Saffrons took control.  His ability to read the game from deep and find space in a crowd where others might struggle is a major asset for Antrim.  He has become another big player for Antrim in recent times and an important cog in the Saffron wheel.  Campbell returns to the starting line up for Sunday in midfield where he will be partnered by Niall McKenna.  Alex Delargy returns to the starting 15 in one of six changes to the Saffrons starting team.  Michael Bradley, Conor McHugh and Aodhan O’Brien the remaining changes.

Alex Delargy is back his first game since sustaining injury against Offaly in the Kehoe Cup final

Mayo in Loughgiel on paper should be another victory.  Anything less would be a massive upset.  The last time these two played was just under 12 months ago when the Saffrons ran riot.  Winning by 20 points, scoring five goals and all this despite having two men sent off.  Neither Eoghan Campbell nor Nigel Elliott saw out the 70 minutes with red cards but it was an afternoon on the west coast where Antrim got everything their own way.

Mayo suffered a heavy loss to Kerry last weekend, the Kingdom running out 2-24 to 0-13 winners in Castlebar.  All signs point to another Antrim win and while they are hot favourites, lessons from last weekend should be learned in what to expect.  Teams like Wicklow last week and Mayo this weekend will see Antrim as a huge scalp and would raise their own game and intensity.  If Antrim are to push for promotion however, coming up against Mayo in their own backyard should be a comfortable two points and while the underfoot conditions in Arklow were far from helpful, the Saffrons will be hoping for a better return from their attacking unit on Sunday. 

When they last met….

Sunday February 24, 2019

Ballina, Mayo

Antrim 5-18 Mayo 0-13

Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin, John Dillon, Stephen Rooney; Eoghan Campbell, Matthew Donnelly, Simon McCrory; Donal McKinley, Nicky McKeague (0-4, 1f); Nigel Elliott (2-00), James McNaughton (1-9, 7f’s), Ryan McCambridge (1-1); Eoin O’Neill (0-1), Conor McCann (0-1), Ciaran Clarke (1-1).

Subs: Conor Boyd for S McCrory (HT); Conor Patterson for J Dillon (55); James O’Connell (0-1, 1f) for C Clarke (55); Conor Laverty for N McKeague (58); Sean Duffin for J McNaughton (63)

Yellow Cards: J Dillon (30).

Red Card: Eoghan Campbell (26); N Elliott (49).

Mayo: Stephen Lenaghan; Conor Murray, Conor Daly, John Gerraghty; Padraig O’Flynn, Stephen Coyne (0-2, 2f’s), Cathal Freeman; Daniel Huane (0-1), David Kenny; James Gallagher (0-1), Eanna Ryan (0-1), Patrick Kiely; Shane Boland (0-7, 6f), Sean Regan, Eoin Delaney.

Subs: Conor Henry for J Geraghty (HT); Brian Hunt for P Kiely (HT); Bobby Douglas for J Gallagher (50); Cormac Phillips (0-1) for E Delaney (53); Corey Scahill for C Freeman (56).

Yellow Cards: E Ryan (14); S Boland (30); S Regan (68).

Conor McHugh comes in at corner back for Sunday’s game with Mayor

SUNDAY’S STARTING TEAM….

Ryan Elliott; Stephen Rooney, Ciaran Johnston, Conor McHugh; Gerard Walsh, Paddy Burke, Aodhan O’Brien; Eoghan Campbell, Niall McKenna; James McNaughton, Neil McManus, Michael Bradley; Alex Delargy, Conor McCann, Dan McCloskey

Subs: Matthew Donnelly; Conor Boyd; Phelim Duffin; Domhnall Nugent, Ryan McCambridge; Eoin O’Neill; Ronan Molloy; Joe Maskey; Ryan McGarry; Nicky McKeague; Tiernan Butler

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