Antrim hurlers face Wicklow in Kehoe Cup second round clash at Abbotstown
Kehoe Cup round 2: Wicklow v Antrim (Abbottstown, today, 2pm)
THE games are coming thick and fast for Darren Gleeson’s Glensmen and this one, their third in eight days, is spiced up by the knowledge that Wicklow also provide the opposition in the first round of games in Division 2A of the National Hurling League.
Antrim travel to the National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown full of confidence after opening their Kehoe Cup account with a convincing 3-28 to 1-15 victory against Meath last weekend.
A much-changed side built on that win with a 3-19 to 1-14 drubbing of Armagh in Ulster’s Conor McGurk competition on Tuesday night.
Alex Delargy (who hit 1-1 in the Kehoe Cup opener) bagged two of the goals in that 11-point win but assistant-manager Jim Close expects a few new faces to come into the side for this afternoon’s clash.
“We’ll still be rotating a few more players,” explained the O’Donovan Rossa clubman.
“As players become available we’ll bring them in and see how they’ve been progressing. Some of the lads haven’t had game-time yet so we’ll be able to see what they can do. We have a few knocks and bumps from Tuesday night so we haven’t confirmed the team yet.”
Antrim reached the final of this competition last season but lost to Westmeath in a penalty shoot-out after beating Wicklow and Kildare in earlier rounds.
“It’s a good stepping stone for the NHL,” said Close.
“It should bring us into the League with confidence that we’re doing the right work. Wicklow (Division 2B champions last season) are our first match of the League so they’ll be focussed on that as well.
“This will let us see what they have so we’ll not be too surprised when we meet them in the first round of the League. That will give the game a bit more of a competitive edge, you don’t want to go down there and get beaten, we want to go and see what they have and then hopefully come away with the win.”
Antrim coped well with the early dismissal of Gerard Walsh last Tuesday night and beat Armagh comfortably with 14 men. Close says the panel have reacted impressively to new manager Gleeson who, like himself, was part of Neal Peden’s management team last season.
“The whole squad has pulled together and they have all been training hard,” he said.
“They have all done well and that has lifted everybody to a higher standard, they have put extra time in themselves and worked hard three or four times a week on their own as well.
“They keep on pushing themselves and showing a bit of ambition to move forward and do well.”
Portroe native Gleeson was a two-time All-Ireland winner with Tipperary and an Allstar in 2014. Close is optimistic that a good performance from Antrim this afternoon will see the side top Group One and progress to a semi-final against the runners-up in Group Two which includes Down, Offaly and Kildare.
“They are a great bunch of lads and they’ve really bought into what we’ve asked of them,” said Close.
“We’ve had 100 per cent turn-outs at training so it’s all good. We’ll go down tomorrow and put a good performance in, hopefully that brings us a good result.”