Antrim hurlers set for Croke Park

Joe McDonagh Cup final clash first part of a double-header on Sunday

Antrim hurlers set for Croke Park
By Damian Mullan


By Damian Mullan


THESE are heady days for GAA in the Saffron county.

The county’s camogs contested the All Ireland Intermediate final last Saturday and it’s the turn of the senior hurlers to take centre stage this weekend.

Darren Gleeson’s side face Kerry in the McDonagh Cup final at Croke Park on Sunday as the curtain-raiser to the All Ireland Senior final between Limerick and Waterford.

And it’s no less than the squad deserves following a hugely successful season in which they gained promotion back to Division One for next year.

Antrim go into the game as hot favourites, having beaten Sunday’s opponents in three previous meetings this year, but manager Darren Gleeson is taking nothing for granted.

The former Tipperary goalkeeper and two times All Ireland winner faces some difficult choices in terms of selection and admits it is the players in form in training that will likely get the nod.

“If you look at the game against Kerry a couple of weeks ago some boys didn't feature but what they did in preparation for the Meath game got them a place in that one,” he explained.

“Genuinely, it's what happens over the preparation period that will define it. We're not going to play someone who runs out of form.

“We're going to play the those in form and are prepared to play. That's what we look at all the time. It has served us well and we won't change,” he added.

The biggest question marks remain over the possible inclusion in the starting XV of Cushendall’s Neil McManus and Domhail Nugent of St. John’s, both recovering from injury.

Gleeson may opt to hold both in reserve, bringing them on during the game when their experience and talent may prove the difference between winning and losing the game.

Elsewhere, there are decisions to be made in terms of personnel and positions on the field of play, terrific problems to have as a manager ahed of such a high profile game.

Given the head to head record between the counties it is difficult to see anything other than an Antrim victory on the hallowed grounds of GAA headquarers.

However, sport can never be predictable and Antrim management and players will be fully aware of that fact and suitably primed for a tense afternoon in Dublin.

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