Walsh: Resilient Antrim keen to go one step further

By Shaun Casey

THIS time last season, Eunan Walsh watched on from the stands as Antrim lost to Meath in the Tailteann Cup semi-final by two points having opted out of the panel for a year. But fast-forward 12 months and the Aghagallon man is looking forward to lining out in Croke Park on Sunday.

The Saffrons overcame Fermanagh in the quarter-finals last weekend, coming from seven points down at one stage to win by three, and Laois now stand in their way of reaching the Tailteann Cup decider.

Walsh, who has reinvented himself since his return as a full-back on the edge of Antrim’s defensive square, is looking forward to a big day out on Jones’ Road and hopes to put in a solid showing.

“When we first came in (at the start of the season), the league was obviously a big focus, but once we came into the championship, a big aim was to get back to Croke Park,” said Walsh.

“We were saying on Tuesday night at training, it’s now about winning in Croke Park. Probably 90 per cent of the squad had experience playing there last year against Meath and they left disappointed, we should have won that game.

“ I think everybody’s just really keen to come back and put in a really good performance. I know last year it was a good performance, it just wasn’t enough to get over the line.”

Walsh and his Antrim teammates are expecting a tough challenge against Justin McNulty’s Leinster side, who were crowned Division Four league champions earlier in the year and are riding on the crest of a wave having knocked out heavily-fancied Kildare last weekend.

“We won’t underestimate Laois, they put in a good performance against Kildare,” added the Antrim defender.

“We’ll not be taking them lightly, they’ve quality all over the field, particularly up front. They have some top forwards.

“Last year was probably a disappointing year for them, how they finished off in Croke Park against Down (conceding eight goals in the Tailteann Cup semi-final). They’ll be coming in with the same motivation as us, that they don’t want that to happen again.”

But Antrim have their own reasons to be cheerful having shown a resilient streak recently that has been ingrained in them by Andy McEntee.

“Against Sligo, we went down five or six points and brought it back to level,” said Walsh on Antrim’s character.

“Against London, we went down by four early on, and just kept ticking away. Last weekend (against Fermanagh), we were down by seven with about 45 minutes gone. While there’s resilience and good character, there’s a lot of stuff we have to fix.

“There will come a time maybe if we’re four or five down, a team won’t let us back into it and they’ll kill us off, so we can’t let that happen. There’s been a big focus on trying to get a quick start and getting ahead.”

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