By Shaun Casey
ANTRIM will hope to bounce back following an opening day defeat when they head to Parnell Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Saffrons take on Dublin in round two of the National Hurling League and go in search of their first points of the season.
It won’t be the first time these sides have shared the same pitch in 2023, following their Walsh Cup clash earlier in the year.
The Dubs emerged victorious on that January afternoon, edging out a five-goal thriller to win with seven points to spare.
A Rian McMullan goal before the interval left Antrim trailing by two points at half time, with Niall McKenna raising their other green flag after the turnaround.
Antrim failed to hit the net in their opening round tie however and ended up losing to Derek Lyng’s Kilkenny by seven points.
The Cats claimed the only major of the day, a first-half goal through top scorer Billy Drennan, who finished the game with 1-8.
There could have been more three-pointers for the Leinster champions but for some outstanding heroics from Ryan Elliot.
Fresh off the back of a club campaign that saw them reach the All-Ireland final, six Dunloy players saw game time for Darren Gleeson’s side.
Ryan McGarry manned Antrim’s defensive square, Keelan Molloy and Conal Cunning started up front while Phelim Duffin and Seaan Elliot came off the bench.
It was a difficult start for the Joe McDonagh Cup champions, although on home soil, and there are no easy outings when you’re dining at the top table, and you don’t need to tell the Saffrons that.
They finished bottom of Division 1B last season, losing all five of their group games, but had enough in the tank to battle past Offaly in the relegation play-off to cling onto their top tier status.
Antrim will take heart from some of their displays in 2022 however, particularly coming up against the Dubs this weekend.
When the sides clashed 12 months ago, Dublin held the upper hand by the time the full-time whistle sounded, but they knew they were in a game.
Just four points separated the teams at the end and Dublin, with former Galway boss Michael Donoghue now in charge, escaped with a narrow win.
The sides were tied 1-8 apiece at the halfway stage, but a goal from Paul Crummey secured maximum points for the Dubs.
They have home advantage this time around and Donoghue’s men are also searching for their first victory of the campaign.
They’d have been happy with their opening day result however, as they managed to take a point from Davy Fitzgerald’s Waterford away from home.
Donal Burke’s accuracy from the dead ball will have been noted by the Antrim management team as he rattled off 1-7, including a penalty and five frees.
Full-forward Cian O’Sullivan claimed Dublin’s other two goals in their 3-16 to 2-19 draw.
So, Antrim have been warned. Dublin pose a huge scoring threat and if the visitors can keep the goals out, they’ll be in with a chance.