Can Antrim make it two from two?

Allianz National Football League, Division 4 North

Antrim v Sligo

4pm Corrigan Park

Antrim put themselves in a strong position for promotion when they travelled to Haggardstown and recorded a one point win over a fancied Louth last Saturday. It was a win that was as much about determination and battling qualities as it was about skill though the Saffrons weren’t lacking in that department either.

New manager, Enda McGinley raised a few eyebrows when he included three from last year’s U20 side in his starting line-up but the former Errigan Ciaran man got it spot on with all three acquitting themselves well but it was one of the more seasoned campaigner, Ryan Murray who weighed in with the vital scores including a point deep in injury time to give his side victory.

All in all it was a good performance from Antrim but there will be aspects of it that the management team will not have been happy with about including the concession of three goals and this is an area that they will surely have looked at over the past week.

While McGinley was claiming the bragging rights over his old mentor, Mickey Harte, John McEntee’s Sligo were recording an even more impressive win over Leitrim at Markievicz Park and will travel to Corrigan with a lot of confidence for a game that could well decide who will top the group.

Leitrim led 0-12 to 0-11 at half time but were perhaps fortunate to be ahead with Sligo always looking dangerous when Conor Griffin and Lally got involved and could have goaled three times in the first half. David Quinn lashed a shot over, with goal-bound efforts from Paul McNamara and Lally were denied by Leitrim goalkeeper Brendan Flynn.

A much improved second half and goals from Niall Murphy and Cian Lally saw the winners turn their superiority into scores and turned the game in favour of the home side who took control once Murphy netted in the 59th minute which made it 1-15 to 0-13.

Ryan Murray top scored for Antrim against the Wee county with 0-6, got himself sin binned and then sent off late in the game but he is eligible for selection tomorrow and will be hoping for a less dramatic 70 odd minutes but would never the less be happy with a similar scoring return if selected.

There was much to be satisfied with about Antrim’s performance with Dermot McAleese’s 15th minute goal a real cracker with the Portglenone man on the end of a great build up from deep in Antrim’s half to apply a clinical finish.

It was perhaps their dogged finish that will have given the Antrim management most satisfaction however when a goal from Mulroy left them trailing going down the final straight but the Saffrons finished strongly with a series of excellent points, the best of these coming from substitutes Paddy Cunningham and Eunan Walsh before Murray applied the coup de grace deep in injury time.

Unfortunately at the time of writing no Antrim team has been announced but I would expect the Saffron line-up to be along similar lines to the one that produced the goods in Haggardstown though some of those introduced from the bench will be hoping for a start.

Only a point separated these sides when they met at Markievicz Park in last year’s NFL with Antrim staging a strong finish but unable to get over the line in the end.

Sligo’s second half performance against Leitrim will probably see them installed as slight favourites and Antrim will have to keep a tight rein on Niall Murphy and Cian Lally but with home advantage it is a game that the Saffrons can win and set themselves up nicely for a final home fixture against Leitrim the following Sunday.

Antrim team v Louth:  Michael Byrne; James McAuley, Declan Lynch, Peter Healy; Marc Jordan James Laverty, Dermot McAleese; Conor Stewart, Niall McKeever; Ryan Murray, Adam Loughran, Ruairi McCann; Odhran Eastwood, Kevin Small, Conor Murray.

Subs: Paddy McBride for McKeever Eoin McCabe for Jordan Paddy Cunningham for Eastwood Eunan Walsh for McAleese.

Scorers for Antrim: R Murray (0-6, 4 frees), D McAleese (1-0), C Murray (0-2), O Eastwood (0-2, 2 frees), M Jordan (0-1), R McCann (0-1, 1 45), E McCabe (0-1), P Cunningham (0-1), E Walsh (0-1)

Sligo team v Leitrim: E Kilgannon, R Feehily, E McGuinness, E Lyons, K Cawley, P McNamara, P Laffey, D Cummins, P Kilcoyne, D Quinn, C Lally, C Griffin, S Carrabine, N Murphy, R Óg Murphy. 

Subs: P O’Connor for C Griffin, N Rooney for S Carrabine, G Gorman for D Cummins, M Gordon for P Laffey, P Naughton for N Murphy, N Mullen for E Lyons

Scorers for Sligo: S Carrabine (0-6, 5 frees); N Murphy (1-3, 0-1 mark); C Lally (1-2); D Quinn, R Óg Murphy (0-2 each); C Griffin, D Conlon, P Naughton, E Kilgannon (free) (0-1 each). 

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