Ulster U20 Football |C|hampionship
Derry v Antrim
Niall Jackman’s Antrim face a tough opener when they take on Derry at Owenbeg in the opening round of the Ulster U20 Football Championship on Friday night. The Saffrons have failed to win any of their cup games going into Friday night’s meeting with Derry but have improved as the early season competition has progressed.
They lost heavily in their opening game against Tyrone in Portglenone but showed marked improvement away to Louth and Down and Jackman feels these games will stand to them going into the Derry game while conceding they will start as outsiders.
They face an Oak Leaf side who will be backboned by players from the All Ireland winning Minor team of two years ago and who will start this championship as favourites to go all the way in many people’s eyes.
In 2020 Antrim caused an upset when they defeated Derry in the quarter-final of the U20 championship at the Dub before losing narrowly to eventual winners Tyrone in the semi-final in Lavey.
Last year they lost to Fermanagh in the opening round in Brewster Park and will go into Friday night’s game as rank outsiders but Niall Jackman is hopeful they can cause an upset. “It’s going to be a huge challenge against Derry but there is no expectation on us and I suppose that takes the pressure off us to an extent”
“We’ve been building the squad over the last six weeks in the preseason Cup competitions and the hope is that it will all come together on Friday evening. It’s going to be a huge challenge but there is no expectation on us” said the Fermanagh native.
Antrim have seven or eight players from last year with St. Brigid’s, Cargin, Portglenone and Glenravel supplying the bulk of the team. Ronan Boyle of St. Brigid’s played for Antrim seniors in a McKenna Cup win over Down at Pairc Esler this year and performed well for Enda McGinley’s side.
Boyle can play anywhere in the side while Declan Heery, Ruairi Hagan, Aidan McAleese, Sean Duffin, Cathal Hynds, Paudie McLaughlin, Rian Lennon, Michael Ferris and Sean O’Neill are all likely to start while Portglenone defender Dan McNicholl could get the nod for a starting place after recovering from an injury that has seen him miss the pre-season cup games.
Fionn Nagle of St. Enda’s and Ronan McKillop of All Saints are likely to miss out through injury but whoever plays, the news coming out of the Antrim camp indicates that the team are in good spirits and looking forward to facing Derry.
We at the Saffron Gael wish them the best of luck at Owenbeg and hope to be there to bring you coverage of the game.