GAA Football

Antrim hoping for a change of fortune when London arrive at Corrigan Park

Matthew Fitzpatrick has been named in midfield for tomorrow's clash with London at Corrigan Park
Andy Watters

Allianz National Football League Division Four: Antrim v London (tomorrow, Corrigan Park, 1pm)

PROMOTION may still be mathematically possible for Antrim but it will take a miracle sequence of results for them to clinch it now.

The Saffrons’ fate was practically sealed as they trudged off the field in Carrick-on-Shannon on February 10 after losing to Leitrim.

That was the side’s third loss on-the-trot and it meant that they’ll need to win their last four games and hope that the form of the top two, Leitrim and Derry, collapses completely to get out of Division Four this year.

Of course that is a very long shot but Antrim can consider themselves a little unlucky to be in this position.

That loss to Leitrim was by a single point and before it Antrim had run Derry, the table-toppers, to the same margin before losing out 1-10 to 1-9. In between there was a 1-10 to 0-9 loss to Wexford so Antrim have been competitive in all of their games but haven’t been able to get over the line in any of them.

“We’ve put in reasonable performances in all the games,” said assistant-manager Brendan Trainor.

“The second half of Wexford was probably the most disappointing but against Derry we put in a good performance and got nothing out of it and our first half against Leitrim was the best football we’ve played this year but we’ve come up short in terms of results.

“London is an important fixture to get our season underway in terms of wins. We have four games left and the focus is to win the four of them.”

The upshot is that Antrim sit second-from-bottom in the country but Trainor and manager Lenny Harbinson have to inspire the players to forget about what has gone and concentrate on finishing the League on a winning note.

“The lads have been very positive and they have reacted well,” said Trainor.

“We were all bitterly disappointed after each of the three games but they have picked themselves up again and training in the last two weeks has been good. We can’t fault the spirt in the camp and, fingers crossed, we get a performance and a result on Sunday.”

James McAuley, fresh from captaining St Enda’s to the All-Ireland Intermediate Football Championship final, and his team-mate Odhran Eastwood are included in the Antrim squad tomorrow. Eastwood has played in the League before while McAuley will be hoping to make his debut and both start on the bench tomorrow.

“James has come on board this year and Odhran is back in,” Trainor confirmed.

“Peter and Kristian Healy aren’t hooking up with us just at the minute, Kristian is carrying a bit of a knock and Peter is into his final year of exams so he won’t come on board for the foreseeable future.

“Joe Maskey has indicated that he wants to get to the hurling and I think that’s where his heart lies.”

The Exiles are currently two points ahead of Antrim in Division Four. Limerick got out of Ruislip with a one-point win in the opening round of matches and Derry were seven points too good for London in Ballinascreen.

Ciaran Deely’s men are one of only two sides in the NFL that have yet to concede a goal and they bounced back impressively on home soil last time out to beat his native Wexford by eight points and Wexford manager Paul McLoughlin described the loss as “my worst day ever in football”.

Antrim have not been able to turn performances into results yet this year and they are due a little luck. London will be difficult to break down but if the Saffrons can knit impressive spells into a performance they should end their losing run and capture their first points of the year.

Antrim: P Nugent; P McCormack, R Johnston, P Gallagher; N Delargy, M McCarry, D Lynch; M Fitzpatrick, M Johnston; K Quinn, S Beatty, P McBride; C Duffin, R McCann, R Murray

Subs: A Hasson, E McCabe, O McKeown, F Burke, P Finnegan, O Eastwood, E Walsh, C Hammill, J McAuley, J Dowling

London: TBC

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