Division Three relegation dogfight is Antrim's Championship says forward star CJ McGourty
SUNDAY’S relegation dogfight against Longford will be Antrim’s most important game this year says star forward CJ McGourty.
The St Gall’s clubman described the winner-takes-all clash at Corrigan Park as Antrim’s “Championship basically” after he landed nine of his county’s 13 points in a losing cause against Armagh.
McGourty gave a virtuoso exhibiting of free-taking at the Athletic Grounds, but had a second half penalty well saved by Armagh’s rookie goalkeeper Blaine Hughes and the Orchardmen went on to win by two points.
“The boys are disappointed but we have to regroup quickly because next Sunday is our Championship basically,” he said.
“I’m sure the management will sit down and reflect on what we need.”
Saturday night’s two-point reverse was the third time this season that Antrim have come off the field with nothing to show for a decent performance. Despite wins against Sligo and Laois, the Saffrons need to beat Longford on Sunday to retain their Division Three status.
“It’s one thing deserving to stay up and another thing doing it,” said McGourty.
“We probably do deserve to stay up but we have to earn it. At the end of the day we’re at home to Longford and it’s still in our hands so if we are relegated it’s our own fault and if we stay up it’s down to our panel and management team.
“We’ll recover and try and get over the line next Sunday because that’s the most important thing.”
The Saffrons went into the game as rank underdogs against Armagh, the leading scorers in the country. They were competitive throughout although the home side took the two points at the finish.
In an impressive and dedicated effort from Antrim, Paddy McAleer, Paddy McBride, Conor Hamill, Brendan Bradley and Conor Murray were among those who enhanced their reputations on the inter-county scene.
“It’s very disappointing,” said a deflated McGourty after the game.
“We came here confident in our gameplan and it worked to a large degree but one or two missed chances and Armagh’s wee bit of experience with Ciaran McKeever just got them over the line.
“Overall it’s the same old Antrim. We put it up to the big teams and get close but we can’t get over the line.”
McKeever scored Armagh’s goal and added a point and three assists while McGourty was left to regret the penalty that would have left the game all-square going into the closing stages.
“It was a good enough penalty,” he said.
“If I took it again I’d probably do the same thing but it was a good save and you have to hold your hands up sometimes and say ‘fair play’ and fair play to Armagh, they got over the line and we have to focus on next week now.
“We had a lot of young boys out there and Armagh are a big, physical side; Julie Davis and Kieran McGeeney have got them in good shape.
“We were five down at one stage and when the going got tough we showed a bit of character to come back and we should have got back level with the penalty.
“We stood up to them in tackling and football-wise too, so we can take great credit.”