Antrim can see off wounded Tipperary footballers

Tailteann Cup Group 2, round one: Antrim v Tipperary (Corrigan Park, 2.30pm Sunday)

Down vs Antrim    1  .jpg
Down vs Antrim 1 .jpg (seamus loughran)

A duel of dual counties, from the weaker code in both – but the hosts appear in a much stronger position than their visitors.

Obviously both teams are coming off losses to be involved in this second tier competition – but defeats can differ greatly.

Tipperary succumbed to that rarity in Munster, a Waterford win, the Deise footballers’ first in the province since 2010 and a first championship victory overall since 2018. That defeat in Dungarvan was especially deflating as the hosts two goals both came late on, and Waterford were playing into a gale force wind in that second half.

Tipperary scored 1-2 early on, but managed only a paltry total of 1-5 and were caught out in the end, beaten by five points.

In contrast, Antrim could argue that they should have beaten Down in Newry in their Ulster SFC quarter-final. Sure, there were four points in it at the end, 0-13 to 0-9, but the Saffrons had enough opportunities to make that a much closer contest.

Down's  Shealan Johnston  in action with  Antrim's Marc  Jordan in Saturday night's Ulster Championship game at Páirc Esler           Picture: Seamus Loughran
Down's Shealan Johnston in action with Antrim's Marc Jordan in their Ulster Championship game at Páirc Esler Picture: Seamus Loughran (seamus loughran)

Antrim won the last football meeting between these counties fairly comfortably, by eight points in last year’s Division Three, an outcome that ultimately helped the Saffrons survive while Tipp went down with only one point accrued.

Division Four didn’t go much better for Tipperary, with only one win – albeit away to Longford – and a couple of draws, in London and at home to Waterford.

With the latter ousting them from the provincial stage, Tipp are clearly at a low ebb.

Antrim’s League wasn’t much more impressive, but at least it was in Division Three, and they did record three wins.

Antrim boss Andy McEntee
Antrim boss Andy McEntee

Boss Andy McEntee has built a physically imposing outfit and despite again being second seeds, Antrim will still have an eye on winning this competition. They could have reached last year’s final, but lost out narrowly in the last four to eventual champions Meath.

The Tipperary team is much changed from that which won the Munster SFC in 2020, seeing off Cork in that final before losing a high-scoring All-Ireland semi-final to Mayo.

Dublin native Paul Kelly, who impressed in charge of his home club Thomas Davis and then with Naas in Kildare, is the man tasked with reviving Tipperary football.

He has made just two changes to the side that started against Waterford, selecting two new corner-forwards, bringing in Ballyporeen’s Darragh Brennan and Jack Kennedy of JK Bracken’s. The latter is the second player of that name in the side, with his Clonmel Commercials namesake pushed back to centre half-forward in a re-shaped line-up.

Antrim are also able to field two players with the same name as Aghagallon’s Ruairi McCann is fit again, joining his namesake from Creggan in the attack.

Clearly Tipp need to respond in a positive manner after their poor performance against Waterford and they have had time to lick their wounds and plot a better path.

Antrim too know they must surely score more than the nine points they managed against the Mournemen. Dealing with the ‘favourites’ tag could also be a problem for them.

However, with home advantage and fine weather, the Saffrons should shine and get their Tailteann Cup challenge off to a winning start.