Tough baptism for new manager McEntee

McKenna Cup

Armagh v Antrim

Athletic Grounds (7-30pm) Tonight (Wednesday)

New Antrim manager, Andy McEntee could hardly have picked a tougher opening game to his competitive managerial career when his Saffron charges take on Fermanagh in the opening round of the Mckenna Cup at the Athletic Grounds tonight (Wednesday–7-30pm)

Antrim were contenders for promotion from Division Three last season, but will again face a tough division 3 campaign in 2023 owing to the makeup of the division.

Under previous boss Enda McGinley, Antrim gained promotion from Division Four in 2021 and were in the hunt for back-to-back promotions after three wins and a draw from their opening five games in 2022.

A mid-table finish was a disappointing end to a League campaign that promised much as Antrim ended Division Three with defeats to Louth and Westmeath.

Louth won the division and will be joined in Division Two by Limerick with Offaly and Down dropping into Division Three.

Laois and Wicklow were relegated from division 3 with Cavan and Tipperary moving into Division Three and the new Antrim manger knows that wins will be hard to come by this season.

Former Meath manager, McEntee will get a look at his new charges in a competitive environment for the first time tonight and will probably see the performance as a greater priority than the result though will be hoping that his side can test their hosts

The Saffrons travel to the Athletic Grounds to face their Ulster Championship opponents Armagh in their Section C opener before hosting Cavan in round two on Sunday, January 8 at Portglenone.

“I never thought I would say it, but I’m really looking forward to the McKenna Cup. It is fine seeing guys in training, but it is hard to judge until you see fellas in competitive action against external opposition” McEntee said in a recent interview.

The former Meath man has been in the post since late July and has taken the opportunity to run his eye over Antrim football and was a regular attender at the Antrim championship and got to see a wide range of Senior and Intermediate games.

Goalkeepers Ronan Hanna (Aldergrove) and Ryan O’Neill (Portglenone) have been drafted into the Antrim panel for 2023 after Chris Kerr and Luke Mulholland stepped away from the panel while St Brigid’s Joe Finnegan is also included with his brother Patrick recalled to the county squad.

Colm McLarnon of St Paul’s is another new addition while Decky Smith of Dunloy will link up with the panel after the All-Ireland Club SHC Final against Ballyhale next month.

McEntee couldn’t have chosen a tougher opener against an Armagh side who were excellent in 2022 and will be hoping to build on that success in 2023 but it gives the new man in charge an opportunity to run his eye over his side in a competitive game for the first time.

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