Allianz NFL Division 4
Antrim v Carlow
The return of Michael McCann to the Antrim panel should prove a timely boost as they face Carlow in round 4 of the NFL Division 4 in Glenavy this Sunday. Lenny Harbinson’s Saffrons have made a descent start to this year’s campaign and their promotion chances received a boost last Sunday when Sligo lost to Wicklow. Two weeks earlier Antrim travelled to Marcievicz Park and suffered a narrow defeat to the Connaught side but a win away to London in week 3 leaves them handily placed on 4 points from three starts.
Only Limerick to date have maximum points from their opening three games and Antrim are joined by Wicklow, Sligo and Wexford on 4 so things couldn’t be much tighter. Sunday’s visitors Carlow have just one win from three starts and appear to have suffered a hangover following relegation from division 3 the previous season but they certainly can’t be taken lightly.
Carlow defeated Antrim in their final game of the 2018 league campaign to gain promotion and frustrated the home side that day with their ultra-defensive approach but the Antrim team they will face on Sunday bears little resemblance to the one they met in 2018.
Gone from the side who lined out that day at Corrigan Park are Chris Kerr, Kevin O’Boyle, James Laverty, Mark Sweeney, Matt Fitzpatrick, Paddy McAleer, Ryan Murray, CJ McGourty, Michael McCarry and Sean McVeigh and Lenny Harbison and his backroom team have been forced into introducing a number of new players and have recalled a number of others to this year’s panel.
The return of Tomas McCann and Paddy Cunningham to the panel had the pundits talking, Cunningham last played for the county six years ago but it has proved a shrewd move for the Saffron management and the Lamh Dhearg man has looked like he has never been away.
Cunningham has top scored for his side and his free taking has been top drawer but to date Tomas McCann hasn’t figured, the Erin’s Own man is recovering from a minor operation but will hopefully be in line for a return soon.
The big news this week however has been the return of his brother Michael to the Antrim panel as Lenny Harbison attempts to add a bit more experience to what is by enlarge, an inexperienced panel. The older McCann will need no introduction to the Saffron supporters.
He has been prominent in the recent success of his club Cargin winning the last two Antrim championships and was a mainstay in the Antrim side for more than a decade before announcing his retirement a couple of years ago.
A less demanding training schedule has been cited as the reason for his return and whether he starts on Sunday or not his knowhow will be vital to Antrim in the league run in.
Antrim will go into Sunday’s game with confidence, determined to continue their recent rich vein of form but they may have to be patient to break down a Carlow side who can be dour and defensive and who come to Glenavy knowing that another defeat would probably end their promotion chances. Dermot McAleese will have done his chances of a place in the starting line-up no harm with a fine display away to London last day with the Casement’s man weighing in with three points in a man of the match performance.
At the time of writing the team hasn’t been announced but it is unlikely to show a lot of changes from the one that has performed well this season and I would expect them to keep their promotion hopes very much alive with another win on Sunday.