Hurling & Camogie

Antrim get the chance to put Nowlan nightmare behind them

The Saffrons host Wexford on Saturday off the back of a 32-point defeat to Kilkenny

Niall McKenna
Niall McKenna, in action here against today’s opponents Wexford, has been named at full-forward for Antrim. Picture: Seamus Loughran (seamus loughran)

Leinster SHC round two Antrim v Wexford (Saturday, Corrigan Park, 3pm, live on GAAGO)

THERE is no hiding away from last week’s nightmare in Nowlan Park for Antrim, but they must ensure an afternoon to forget is exactly that when they host Wexford this afternoon at Corrigan Park.

It was always going to be the tallest of tall orders on Noreside in their opening Leinster Championship fixture and although it went even worse than feared, the Saffrons are in the same position the overwhelming majority would have expected them to be this afternoon.

The manner of the defeat stung the most as they collectively just didn’t deliver anything close to what they were capable of with a lack of cohesion and energy most alarming. So, what will their response be today?

At the outset of the Leinster Championship, Wexford at home is a fixture Antrim fans were whispering quietly of the prospect of a shock and if they manage to do just that, then their mauling by the Cats will seem a distant memory with plenty still to play for in the competition.

Unsurprisingly, Antrim manager Darren Gleeson has made changes this week. Gerard Walsh and Keelan Molloy were unused subs in Nowlan Park as they returned from injury, but are two of three changes this week as Walsh replaces his namesake Scott at wing-back, whilst Molloy comes in for Michael Bradley in the half-forward line.

Conor Boyd came in during the second half last week and earns a start at centre-back, prompting a reshuffle as Eoghan Campbell goes to midfield and Niall O’Connor to corner-back with Phelim Duffin dropping to the bench.

“You would thinking before today that your home games are going to be massively important for where you are going to end up in the championship,” said Antrim manager Darren Gleeson in the wake of the Kilkenny loss.

“Going by that level of performance and we bring that again next weekend, you won’t get within an asses roar of it.

“We were hoping to be really competitive and to enforce some of how we want to play for the year. We didn’t do that, so we have to rebuild during the week quickly, get some honest conversations as to why we were very individual, standalone hurling.”

Wexford had their own issues last weekend as they seemed home and hosed against Dublin, with an inspired Lee Chin performance helping them into a five-point lead in stoppage-time, but they let it slip as late goals salvaged a draw for the visitors, so they too will feel they have a point to prove today.

The sides met in Wexford Park last year with a slow start costing Antrim. Although they whittled a nine-point gap at the break down to four, missed goal chances would ultimately cost them.

Antrim simply must attack this game from the off with intensity and play with purpose to attack the visitors. If not, then the likes of Chin, Rory O’Connor and Cathal Dunbar will thrive and it could be another long afternoon.

Last year was one that got away for the Saffrons, so they won’t have the same hang-ups about today’s opposition they seemed to have six days ago, but that will count for nothing unless they deliver a Championship performance.