Antrim hurlers must cash in on Wexford win as they travel to face Dublin

It costs quite a few euro to light the fire of the next generation

Team Talk.jpg
Darren Gleeson looking to build on the Wexford win as they face the Dubs (seamus loughran)

Leinster Senior Hurling Championship Round Robin: Dublin v Antrim (Saturday, Parnell Park, 4pm)

NEVER was there a warmer after-glow felt than Antrim’s sensational Leinster Championship victory over Wexford at Corrigan Park earlier this month.

It felt every bit the breakthrough win Darren Gleeson’s team had been yearning for the last few seasons.

While some in Antrim were happy to be getting closer to hurling’s big guns, Gleeson has consistently shown an intolerance for losing narrowly or drawing games.

And he hated the soft-ball questions from reporters just as much.

When they slipped to a four-point League defeat to Dublin at Corrigan Park two seasons ago, the Tipp native didn’t like the idea of there being a ‘lot of positives’ in the performance that yielded nothing at the end of it.

“Do you know what, I’ve been getting that line over the last few years – ‘lots of positives…’ I’m here for points not positives, do you know what I mean?” he said.

The finer the margins, the more irked the Antrim manager became.

A lot of those post-match briefings felt like Groundhog Day.

On many a day, Antrim gave everything of themselves and got nothing.

And it always seemed to be the Dubs that got under their skin. Michael Donoghue watched his Dublin side steal the League points at Corrigan Park in February.

And he felt every bit the lucky general in last year’s Leinster Championship clash at Corrigan when they stole a draw from under Antrim’s noses.

But it was still a far cry from the 18-point hammering Antrim suffered in the 2021 Leinster series down in Navan.

But what those recent near misses have done for Antrim’s psyche is secularise the relationship they have with Dublin and indeed other elite hurling counties.

There was a time when Dublin’s sheer physicality grinded Antrim down – but that’s no longer the case.

The apprehension the Sky Blues once held over the Ulstermen is gone too. Antrim know they are more than Dublin’s equal and have designs on bumping them down the line in Leinster in 2024.

They just need to play better at Parnell Park – a ground where they’ve rarely reached their potential even though it’s reminiscent of Corrigan’s tight dimensions.

It’s time Antrim addressed their ropey away form too especially against a beatable county like Dublin – and can they put together back-to-back Championship wins?

Can they extract the confidence from the Wexford performance and result without bathing in it too long?

With Gerard Walsh, Conal Bohill, Ryan McGarry and Paddy Burke in their back-line, the visitors have the muscle, hurling smarts and experience to handle Cian O’Sullivan, Donal Burke and Danny Sutcliffe, especially when route one paid dividends for the Dubs against Wexford late on in a Championship tie that finished all square.

Their midfield and attack have shown their adeptness to keep the scoreboard moving most days, particularly with Seaan Elliott, Niall McKenna, James McNaughton and Conal Cunning hitting good form.

Their warm weather trip to Portugal on the eve of the Leinster series prompted some derision in places – but if that’s what it takes to be competitive at the highest level, that’s what it takes.

It costs quite a few euro to light the fire of the next generation – and those who were in Corrigan Park against Wexford were suitably inspired.

The manner of Antrim’s win over a Lee Chin-inspired Wexford captured the attention of the country and certainly keeps Gleeson’s side in everyone’s eye-line in Leinster with third spot within reach.

It’s over to Gleeson’s players again to make everyone take more notice of them and perhaps convince themselves that there is no such thing as a bogey team or a bogey ground and that hard work, muscle memory and hurling smarts make all these things a figment of their imagination.