Antrim can be confident despite exits

By Niall Gartland

ANTRIM must wait until next Tuesday to commence their McKenna Cup campaign, but they’ll be quietly hopeful of getting their season off to a winning start against Down.

It’s the second season of the Enda McGinley era, and they made enough progress last year to suggest that they can surprise a few people in 2022.

Promotion from Division Four was the big thing, albeit was one of the heroes of last year’s league campaign, Paddy Cunningham, has decided to hang up the boots.

A few others have stepped away from the panel. Mark Sweeney, who is based in Dublin, won’t be involved, while Niall McKeever has had a fairly stop-start campaign so it’s no major surprise that he’s also pulled the pin. Adam Loughran likewise isn’t on the 2022 panel.

Otherwise there are a raft of new faces, including Jamie McCann, one of the heroes of Creggan’s long-awaited Senior Championship success. Paddy McAleer has returned to the fold, and big things will be expected of Jamie Gribbin if he can get an injury-free run at things. Elsewhere, Ronan Gribbin and Eoin Hynds have also been added to the squad.

Division Three doesn’t look as strong as last year, so the Saffrons will be hopeful of consolidating their status. Practically all of the games look winnable as all the teams are of a fairly even keel with no county sticking out as a cert for promotion. Then in the first round of the championship, Antrim are hosting Cavan. It’s hard to know how good Cavan will be this year, but it represents a massive opportunity for the Saffrons to win their first provincial championship match since 2014.

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