Allianz National Football League Division 4
O.Cathain Park Portglenone – 2 pm
The margin for error is minuscule as league leaders Limerick visit Portglenone on Sunday and anything short of a win will surely leave Lenny Harbinson’s Saffrons needing miracles if they are to achieve his stated ambition at the start of the season, promotion to division 3.
To be fair to the Antrim supremo and his side they haven’t done a lot wrong this season but a one point defeat in Sligo and last Sunday’s hard earned draw with Carlow in Glenavy have left Antrim trailing Billy Lee’s Limerick by three points in the table in third place and one behind second place Wexford who they beat on day one of the present campaign.
A slow start on Sunday left Antrim trailing 1-3 to 0-0 at the end of the opening quarter and they looked very much off the pace as Carlow controlled the opening exchanges, crowding out the home side when they did attack.
Antrim did settle after that and had closed the gap to three by the half way stage but too often lacked ideas as they carried the ball into the tackle time and again and were turned over by a no nonsense Carlow defence.
The Antrim management have been quick to take action when necessary this year with the introduction of substitutes and made a couple of changes at half time but the introduction of Michael McCann and Odhran Eastwood during the second half were the catalyst for this comeback.
McCann brought a calmness to what had been at times, a frantic Antrim performance while Eastwood has surely played his way into consideration for a place in the starting line-up for the visit of Limerick with his three point contribution.
What about Limerick
Limerick find themselves very much in the driving seat for their visit North this Sunday and their hopes of earning promotion from Division Four of the National Football League received a major boost on Sunday past when a five-goal extravaganza crushed Wicklow in Rathkeale’s Mick Neville Park.
Limerick went on to win 5-10 to 1-14, unlike their previous ties where a single score could have changed the outcome, this fourth success out of four was already decided by the quarter way stage when their high-pressure game raced them into a twelve-point lead as they ripped through the visitor’s defence.
Billy Lee will be well satisfied with the spread of contributions from the
twenty players who made an appearance.
While regular starters like Iain Corbett, Tommie Childs, Cillian Fahy and Danny Neville continued to impress, huge displays from the likes of Tommy Griffin, Mike Donovan and Hugh Bourke showed that his patience in developing his squad is now bearing fruit.
What Limerick side will turn up this weekend remains to be seen, the one who edged out London and were taken to the wire in their previous two games or the one who beat Wicklow.
Antrim are unlikely to afford them the space they were gifted against Wicklow and will take heart from their second half performance against a rugged Carlow. They need to start on the front foot right from throw in this weekend and take the game to the opposition.
There has been much to be admired by Antrim this year with wins over Fermanagh in the McKenna Cup and Wexford in the league the highlights but significantly they were not far away against Sligo and might well have taken both points on Sunday.
With two games remaining after Sunday the margin for error gets smaller and realistically Antrim need three wins from three and hope that Wexford and Limerick will slip up in the run in and a win on Sunday would certainly set them up nicely and it is a win they are more than capable of achieving at O’Cathain Park
If Antrim are to win on Sunday then a better start is imperative. They gave Carlow a six point start last time out and quite simply can’t afford to do the same against the league leaders or they will be in big trouble.
At the time of writing the Antrim team had not been announced but there could be changes from the team who started Sunday’s game against Carlow. Antrim introduced their full quota of subs for that game and Michael McCann and Odhran Eastwood in particular made an immediate difference while Kevin Quinn and Conor Small did their chances no harm at all.
Whatever side the Antrim management opt for are more than capable of securing a victory at O’Cathain Park and inflicting a first defeat on Limerick while closing the gap on the league leaders to a single point.
Limerick side who played Wicklow: Donal O’Sullivan; Paul Maher, Brian Fanning, Mike Donovan; Tony McCarthy, Iain Corbett, Bob Childs; Tommy Griffin, Tommie Childs; Adrian Enright, Cillian Fahy, Pádraig de Brún; Hugh Bourke, Danny Neville, Pádraig Scanlon. SUBS: James Naughton for Padraig de Brún (57 minutes), Séamus O’Carroll for Pádraig Scanlon (60 minutes), Josh Ryan for Tommy Griffin (61 minutes), Davy Lyons for Adrian Enright (70 minutes), Dave Connolly for Paul Maher (72 minutes)