Allianz NFL Division 3
Antrim v Cavan
Corrigan Park-Saturday 2.00pm
The visit of unbeaten Cavan to Corrigan Park on Saturday provides Antrim with another opportunity to get some much needed points on the board but it looks like a tough ask for Andy McEntee’s men.
The Saffron’s have undergone a big overturn of players since the former Meath Manager took over the reins from Enda McGinley at the start of the season and while there is no doubt the side has shown steady improvement, this hasn’t been reflected in results.
Players like Michael and Tomas McCann, James Laverty, Martin and Ricki Johnston and Conor Murray have all departed the scene and that lack of experience have played a part in Antrim’s failure to have accrued more points on the board.
Add to that an ever increasing injury list and things certainly haven’t been ideal for McEntee in his first season in charge of the Saffrons.
They lost to Offaly on day one at Corrigan but did enough in the second half to have got something from that game. A strong claim for a penalty that was waved away and a sucker punch goal against the run of play saw the home side lose by six but the final score didn’t really reflect the performance.
A great 50 plus minutes at Pairc Esler on day two saw Antrim out play a fancied Down with Ruairi McCann’s two goals seeing Antrim lead by five with only five minutes of play remaining and Down supporters starting to file out of the Newry venue early.
They failed to see the game out however and conceded 1-3 in the closing stages to lose by a point, still it looked that we were on track for better days ahead. That promise seemed to have been realised when Antrim travelled to Semple Stadium in round 3 and recorded a good 1-19 to 0-14 win over Tipperary but an injury to Ryan Murray took some of the gloss of that result.
Still things were looking good when Fermanagh visited Corrigan in round four and an 8 point lead in the early stages of the second half augured well for the home side but, as in Newry Antrim failed to see the game out and eventually lost by the minimum.
Performances if not results had been encouraging but with only two points from their opening four games Antrim travelled to Mullingar last day out and were forced to field without Ryan Murray and Marc Jordan, who had been their best player to date.
Jordan took a heavy hit late in the Fermanagh game while Murray hadn’t recovered from the injury he received against Tipperary and with Dermot McAleese, who received a bad injury against Down and Declan Lynch joining them on the touchline it was an inexperienced 15 who took the field against the Lake County.
The Saffrons never got started and were put to the sword by a good Westmeath side and the result leaves Antrim looking over their shoulder at Longford and Tipperary who have only one point each.
Antrim lost by 31 points in Mullingar that day, probably the biggest defeat ever suffered by an Antrim football team and Andy McEntee and his backroom staff were at pains to explain just what went wrong.
Hopefully the former Meath manager will have some of his walking wounded back on Saturday with Marc Jordan and Paddy McBride possible starters but it will take everyone playing out of their skin if they are to upset the odds against a Cavan side who have one foot in division 2 already following promotion from division 4 last year.
It’s important that a good crowd comes out to support and encourage the Saffrons on Saturday at Corrigan and that the players themselves can put the Westmeath result behind them and get back to the level of performance they produced against Down and Fermanagh for the full 70 minutes.
Antrim travel to Longford on the final day of the season where probably a win, or at least a draw would be necessary should they lose to the unbeaten Cavan on Saturday and it is a position they don’t want to find themselves in.