Allianz Football League Division 4
Wicklow v Antrim
Antrim travel to Wicklow this weekend knowing that anything less than a win will probably not be enough if they are to keep their hopes of promotion from division 4 alive.
Antrim’s promotion chances received a major boost when they defeated league leaders Limerick last day out and they will be hoping for a repeat of that performance when they travel to Aughrim on Sunday with throw in scheduled for 2.00pm.
Manager Lenny Harbison stated at the start of the season that promotion from division 4 was his primary ambition this season and that ambition is very muck within the Saffron’s reach as they make the long journey to Wicklow for the penultimate game in their league campaign.
It has been a mixed season for the Antrim footballer. They started with a good win over visitors Wexford in Glenavy and an away win in Ruislip on day two augured well for this season’s campaign but a one point defeat to Sligo at Markievicz Park in round 3 threw a spanner in the works.
The visit of Carlow in round four offered Antrim an opportunity to get their division 4 promotion bid back on track. The visitors had defeated Wicklow on day one but had struggled for results after that, losing to Wexford and Limerick.
They arrived at Glenavy knowing that only a win would do and when they went 1-3 to 0-0 ahead after 15 minutes it wasn’t looking good for the home side. Antrim finally got their game together to trail by a goal at half time and pushed hard for the win in the second half but had to settle for a draw.
Going into the Limerick game in Portglenone last day out, Antrim trailed league leaders Limerick by three points. Anything less than a win and it was good bye to promotion for another season but the Saffrons produced their best performance of the season to comprehensively beat previously unbeaten Limerick.
Two weeks earlier in that game against Carlow the introduction of Odhran Eastwood at half time proved an inspired substitution and it was no surprise when the St. Enda’s ‘Pocket Rocket’ was handed a starting birth against the league leaders.
Eastwood was outstanding, leading the Limerick defence a merry dance with his speed and movement and ended top scorer with 2-3 in a man of the match performance. The game also saw Paddy McBride produce his best performance of the season with the St. John’s man contributing 0-7 and looking more like his old self.
Fintan Burke was also handed a first start and put in a workman like performance around mid-field before being called ashore late in the game and over all there appeared to be a better balance to the Saffron side.
Sunday’s lineout is unlikely to show many changes to the one who started against Limerick. The defence has pretty much picked itself throughout the league with Eastwood’s St. Enda’s colleagues Peter Healey and James McAuley turning in consistent performances all year and forming a solid half-back line with team captain Declan Lynch.
At mid-field Colum Duffin was outstanding against the Treaty men and has formed a hard working mid-field partnership with Marc Jordan while Conor Murray has been consistently good in attack and with Niall Delargy has been an ever present.
The return of Michael McCann, Paddy Cunningham and Martin Johnston to the panel has added experience and knowhow to the Antrim cause and whether any or all of them start or are introduced can only enhance Antrim’s chances.
WHAT ABOUT WICKLOW
As we have seen, there is no such thing as an easy game in division 4 and Wicklow have mixed good performances with bad this year but are more than capable on their day. They lost to Carlow on day one, beat Waterford on day two and then raised a few eyebrows when they beat Sligo by five points at Sunday’s venue.
On day four Wicklow travelled to Limerick and were hammered by the league leaders who scored 5-10 against them but a week later they made the journey to London where they hit five goals themselves.
Wicklow’s best performances seem to have been at home and significantly they are one of three sides on six points, one behind Antrim with Wexford and Sligo the others hoping for an Antrim slip up.
Both Wexford and Sligo face difficult games when they travel to Limerick and Carlow respectively this weekend but for now Antrim will be concentrating on the Wicklow game and letting the other results take care of themselves.
The Saffrons need to produce another high intensity performance like they did against Limerick. They moved the ball with pace and always seemed to have an option when attacking while they dropped back affectively as a unit when defending and the Treaty men couldn’t cope with that intensity.
A win in Aughrim would set Antrim up nicely for their final game of the league campaign at home to Waterford and would ensure a bumper crowd in Glenavy but for now all thoughts must be concentrated on Sunday’s visit to Wicklow.
Antrim team v Limerick: Andrew Hasson, Patrick Gallagher (0-01), Ricky Johnston, Mark Gardiner, Declan Lynch, James Mc Auley, Peter Healey, Colum Duffin (0-02), Marc Jordan, Martin Johnston, Patrick Mc Bride (0-07), Niall Delargy, Odhran Eastwood (2-03), Fintan Burke, Conor Murray (0-03)