Jordan embracing the run of games

By Niall Gartland

THE ambition is to secure top spot by overcoming Sligo this Sunday, but Antrim footballer Marc Jordan knows it won’t be the end of the world if they fail in that quest and end up in the preliminary quarter-finals.

The Saffrons finished top of their group in the Tailteann Cup last year and eventually exited the competition at the semi-final stage despite putting up a great fight against Meath at Croke Park.

It’s the most obvious and safest route to success in the Tier Two competition, but Jordan makes the case that fielding in a preliminary quarter final isn’t without its advantages.

“We want to finish top, and it was massive for us to get an extra week off before the Carlow quarter-final last year.

“Ideally we want that extra week’s break but it could work okay the other way as it would allow our lads to get more football, especially with players coming back from injury.

“We want to top the group but if you look at Down last year, they were beaten by Meath in their final group game and ended up playing Cavan and that prepped them really well for Croke Park. It stood them in good stead so we’ll stay positive whatever happens on Sunday.”

Andy McEntee’s side merited their one-sided victory against Tipperary on their first day out before edging a hugely competitive contest against Wexford on their second outing. Sligo, it’s fair to say, will be their toughest challenge yet.

“We’re on a similar enough trajectory to last year. We had two games we were expected to win, then we faced Fermanagh in our third and final game, they’d been promoted and were the bookies favourites.

“Sligo beat us in the league by seven points and finished above us in the table so it’s fair enough that they go in as slight favourites. They beat us by seven points and to be fair they deserved it. They gave Galway their fill of it in Connacht as well so it’ll be tricky enough but I’m looking forward to it.”

In an ideal world, Antrim would be part of the top 16 teams in the country that make up the All-Ireland series,but Jordan recognises that the Tailteann Cup format is preferable, when all is said and done, to the old backdoor format.

“We don’t talk about the Tailteann Cup until we’re in it, it’s not even mentioned.

“But I have spoken at length to the likes of Paddy McBride, Paddy McAleer and Declan Lynch about the change in format.

“In the past we could be pitted against a top Division One team and there was a very high likelihood that your season could be over.

He continued: “I know some boys prefer the big day against the big team but we’re realistic and it’s great to get at least three or four extra games. Last year our young lads got to Croke Park which probably wouldn’t have been the case otherwise.

“We’ve taken it very seriously, none of our boys had headed to America, we’ve a full deck to pick from barring the injuries and I think that shows our intentions.”

Antrim have had their fair share of injury problems this year, but the overall picture is starting to improve. Towering Aghagallon man Ruairi McCann has returned to the field of play, while Adam Loughran and Conhuir Johnston have also returned to the match day panel in recent weeks – and there’s more to come.

“The big one is that Ruairi McCann is back playing, he’s such a focal point for us and gets goals. He had only played about two or three games all year.

“Then there’s Conor Stewart, Conhuir Johnston, Ryan Murray, all those boys are hoping to get minutes in the next week or two.

“Peter Healy has been injured all year and it doesn’t look like he’ll play too much but it’s great that the other lads are on the road back.”

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