Antrim boss Neal Peden wary of wounded Offaly
HAVING overcome Kerry in their opening game in the Joe McDonagh Cup, Antrim boss Neal Peden is hopeful of getting things back on track with a win away to Offaly in Tullamore tomorrow.
Antrim recorded an excellent win against the Kingdom in the first game of the competition but came unstuck against Laois.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s third game against Offaly, Peden said: “We had a good win against Kerry. We played to our strengths against Kerry, but unfortunately against Laois we just didn’t hit the same intensity.
“Obviously we didn’t get the result we were looking there, but we’re very confident this week that we can get it back to the level we were at against Kerry, and we are looking forward to a very high intensity game down in Offaly.”
Tomorrow’s opponents. meanwhile, are in crisis mode. Former manager Kevin Martin has stepped down, with Joachim Kelly taking up the post on an interim basis.
Former Allstar Ollie Moran has gone so far as to say that Offaly hurling needs a “20-year plan” to reverse its fortunes but Peden is taking nothing for granted ahead of the meeting in O’Connor Park.
He said: “We are under no illusions that Offaly are going to be all guns blazing, with them losing their two games. We are well aware of that and we know what we have to do.
“They have a great tradition in hurling. You sympathise with a team that is struggling, which they have been. But Offaly are a passionate hurling county...
“They will be aiming for four points in the competition so that they can maybe get to the final still. You just don’t know with the way these results are going, when you see Kerry beating Westmeath last week.
“So Offaly are going to be coming out and trying to set themselves back on track and I am sure that Joachim Kelly will have them firing on all cylinders when they come to meet us on Saturday.”
Peden’s only injury concern is captain Conor McCann.
“Conor has had a knee injury so we are just monitoring and assessing that. He is the only one, but with the rest, we will have a full squad to pick from,” says Peden.
For Antrim hurling to make headway, Peden believes that progression in the tiered Championship is vital.
“I have always stated that if we are going to move forward, we have to progress in the Joe McDonagh. We have to perform in it. We have performed on and off, but we have got to get a consistency.
“If we get to the final, that gets us into the preliminary rounds of the All-Ireland, and that’s progress for us.
‘‘Antrim have to start making progress and start rebuilding and showing that we have the team that can push Antrim to the heights that they’ve been to before and back into Division One.
“We started with Kerry, we had a bit of a blip against Laois – we had chances against Laois but we just didn’t take them – so we are hoping to get back on track and playing at that intensity that we know we are capable of.”