Antrim should get back on track in Ruislip

Allianz NFL Division 4

This week’s trip to London takes on greater significance for Antrim following last Sunday’s one point defeat to Sligo at Marcievicz Park. The Saffrons performed well in Sligo but it was the home side who pipped them in a thrilling game of football which finished 0-15 to 0-14.

Lenny Harbison’s side had Kevin Quinn black carded shortly after his half time introduction with Sligo moving three ahead in his absence but they came back strongly and points from Odhran Eastwood and Paddy Cunningham’s  eighth of the day in injury time saw the visitors close the gap to the minimum.

However, referee McKenna blew the full-time whistle after Aidan Devaney’s kick-out with the Antrim players venting their anger at the full-time whistle, claiming that the Monaghan whistler had indicated a further 30 seconds play prior to Cunningham’s score.

Whatever the merits of those protests Sligo move onto four points from two outings while Antrim find themselves on two from the same number of games but a win in London would keep them very much in the chasing pack and with three of their remaining four games at home, all still to play for.

Antrim opened their league account with a win over Wexford in Glenavy on day one and then travelled to Sligo, buoyed by the news that Wexford had beaten Carlow on Saturday night, the Connaught side undoubtedly taking heart out of that result as well.

It was Sligo though that enjoyed the better of the exchanges for long spells against the Saffrons but Antrim will never the less feel that they should have taken something from this game.

Sligo recorded a facile victory over London in Ruislip on day one scoring 5-9 in reply to 0-11 from the home side but the exiles showed a lot of improvement when they travelled to Limerick on day two and led for a time before losing 0-8 to 0-7 and they will certainly have taken a lot of heart from that performance if not the result.

Manager Michael Magher will hope to build on that improvement and London born captain, Liam Gavigan will see Sunday’s encounter at Ruislip as an opportunity to get their first points of this year’s campaign on the board so Antrim must not take the exiles for granted.

That is highly unlikely however and despite last week’s defeat Antrim have been performing well this year and the return of Paddy Cunningham to the panel after six years away has given them a genuine scoring threat.

The Lamh Dhearg man scored 0-6 on day one against Wexford and added 0-8 at Marcievicz Park and his free taking could be a key factor this Sunday. A greater spread of scores would certainly help the Antrim cause and after hitting three goals against Wexford the Saffrons only threated the Sligo goal briefly on Sunday past.

Their failure to push up on Sligo’s kick-outs allowed the home side to find a man with relative ease while at the other end the Sligo high-press made it difficult for Oisin Kerr to find a man. Antrim also struggled for long periods at mid-field but I wouldn’t expect there to be too many changes, if any for the trip to London.

Ricky Johnston, Paddy Gallagher, Declan Lynch, James McAuley and Peter Healey were solid at the back while Conor Murray, Paddy Cunningham and Niall Delargy performed well in attack while Odhran Eastwood’s cameo appearance, which resulted in a fine mark and point may have put him in the frame for a starting spot.

The Saffrons have played with confidence and belief this year and while they were not at their best in Sligo they showed enough resolve and determination to make them contenders for promotion at seasons end and I would expect them to win with a bit to spare in Ruislip.

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