Antrim have been drawn against old adversaries, Leitrim, Fermanagh and Wexford in this year’s Tailteann Cup with the Saffrons kicking off their campaign against Leitrim at Corrigan Park on Saturday the 13th May.
A week later they face the long journey to Wexford while round 3 of the group stage will be against Fermanagh at a neutral venue on June 3d.
My first reaction when I saw the draw was ‘It could have been worse’ with Leitrim and Wexford playing their football in division 4 this year while their toughest fixture on paper is against Fermanagh who beat Antrim by a point in the league division 3 at Corrigan Park this year.
The group opener against Leitrim is a replay of last year’s Tailteann Cup opener when Antrim travelled to Carrick on Shannon after a decent division 3 campaign to meet a Leitrim team who played their football in division 4 and were expected to beat the Connaught minnows.
It didn’t quite work out that way however as Shane Moran and Jack Heslin’s goals ensured victory for Leitrim at Carrick-on-Shannon and sent favourites Antrim home empty-handed. The game proved to be Enda McGinley’s last game in charge of the Saffrons with Andy McEntee taking over the reins at the start of this year.
Antrim last met Wexford in 2020 in the NFL Division 4 at Glenavy with the Saffrons recording a good win in their promotion winning season.
Two second half goals from Ruairi McCann were to prove decisive as Antrim got their Division Four campaign off to a winning start against Wexford at a sunny Glenavy.
The Aghagallon man struck twice in 11 minutes to give the hosts breathing space, but Paul Galvin’s Wexford were to remain in contention although they couldn’t find the major their challenge required to get to within a score in the final quarter.
More recently Antrim have met Fermanagh in 2021 and 2022, winning at Brewster Park in their division 3 opener that year but losing to the same team at Corrigan by a point this year after leading by eight at one stage.
Last year’s Tailteann Cup was a knock out competition but this year’s format guarantees teams at least three games with only the bottom team eliminated after the group stages. The The four preliminary quarter-finals will consist of the second placed teams being at home against New York and the three “best placed” third place teams in each group subject to avoiding of repeat provincial final pairings and where possible repeat pairings from Round One.
At the quarter-final stage the four group winners will meet the preliminary quarter-final victors, subject to the avoidance of repeat provincial final pairings and where possible repeat pairings from Round One.
The quarter-finals, and semi-finals will be winner on the day with venues for those rounds to be determined by the CCCC.
Schedule of games
June 10/11: Preliminary Quarter-Finals
June 17/18: Quarter-Finals
June 24/25: Semi-Finals
July 15/16: Final