Antrim face next Leinster challenge

By Michael McMullan

ANTRIM will be eying back to back performances when they make the trip to Parnell Park on Saturday.

Darren Gleeson’s side bounced back from their drubbing at the hands of Kilkenny to see off Wexford in Corrigan Park.

Gerard Walsh, Niall McKenna, James McNaughton and Seaan Elliott were the starring cast in a second half performance of both style and resilience.

The Saffrons will have also taken additional heart with how Wexford blitzed Galway on Saturday to blow the Leinster Championship wide open.

With home ties against Galway and Carlow to follow, Saturday presents a chance for Antrim to give themselves a chance to leave a Leinster final spot in their own hands.

Their humbling at the hands of Kilkenny was the perfect storm in many ways. In a league campaign where Antrim were short a host of regulars, they failed to register a point.

The closest they came was against Dublin who took advantage of a goalkeeping error in a 1-20 to 1-19 win at Corrigan Park. Seán Gallagher’s point attempt dropped short where it wasn’t dealt with by Tiernan Smyth and Dublin went down the road with two points.

Dublin were 17-point winners when the sides met in the Walsh Cup earlier in the season.

Fast-forward to now and it’s a different Antrim. Ryan Elliott is back between the sticks. Keelan Molloy, Nigel and Seaan Elliott have also returned to the fold.

Their championship opener against the Cats was the first outing with Kilkenny in ruthless form in search of an early win.

Antrim have been building gradually in recent seasons. That’s what made the players taking time out during the league – on top of the retirement of Neil McManus – a tough pill to swallow.

Looking ahead to Saturday, Gleeson will see a Dublin team who can also hang tough. They were out of it twice against Wexford before coming with late goals.

Eoghan Campbell, Gerard Walsh and Ryan McGarry will be key cogs in stifling anything Dublin throw their way this weekend.

With Kilkenny expected to take full points from Carlow, Saturday is a huge chance for Antrim to get on their tails at the top.

It’s the same as the Wexford game. Antrim will have to believe and use their hurling to take themselves into the final quarter.

After a league campaign that would’ve tested the resolve, this is now where Antrim can stare into their opponents’ eyes with the chance of making further gains.

A win against Dublin and the Saffrons’ season has the potential to really take off.

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