Antrim won't be feeling down going to Newry, says captain Healy

Antrim captain Peter Healy on the ball during Sunday's Division Three defeat against Offaly. Picture Mark Marlow
Antrim captain Peter Healy on the ball during Sunday's Division Three defeat against Offaly. Picture Mark Marlow

HEADING to Down, Antrim football captain Peter Healy insists the Saffrons won't be feeling down, despite a disappointing defeat at home to Offaly in their Division Three opener.

The hosts trailed from the first score, and were behind by nine points shortly before half-time, but had several good goal chances and could have been level before a late second goal ensured victory for the visitors, by 2-12 to 0-12.

The St Enda's Glengormley clubman is keen to right those wrongs, and is happy to face the first of three all-Ulster clashes, with Cavan and Fermanagh also in this competitive section:

Peter Healy on Antrim v Offaly

"The good thing about the National League is that we've another game next Saturday against Down and a good opportunity to set things right - that's the plan…

"They got a win [on Saturday, away to Tipperary]) so they'll be on a high. We've plenty to prove. We'll go into that game raring to go as well.

"There's four Ulster teams in Division Three this year so there's three big battles. You have to enjoy those days as well. We're looking forward to trying to put things right on Saturday night."

One of his own actions proved costly even before throw-in, losing the toss to Offaly counterpart Declan Hogan, with the latter choosing to play with the wind at his team's back, a factor in them racing into a 1-9 to 0-2 lead, as Healy acknowledged:

"I think playing at Corrigan Park with that wind can always be tough and we didn't learn from last season maybe? Playing into the wind in the first half, there was a 10 or 15-minute spell when we couldn't win our kickouts and we were very open.

"We got punished, 1-3 or 1-4, similar to one game last season when we were playing into that wind… You have to re-adjust and maybe go a bit more defensively into the wind and stuff. Even in the first half, it was just a 10-minute spell - I don't think we were the worst team in the first half. We were there or thereabouts.

"That's just Corrigan Park and the wind up here. It is something we need to learn from going forward. We've two more home games this year and those four points absolutely need to be taken."

Peter  Healy looks forward to Down v Antrim

Yet despite some defensive failings, mostly into that breeze, Healy felt Antrim performed fairly well in new manager Andy McEntee's first league game in charge:

"In the second half, I thought we came out and showed a good bit of character and gave it a good rattle, but we didn't take our chances.

"The big picture and the small picture - we'd a few goal chances at the end and, on any other day, they probably go into the net and you are walking away with two points…

"I think there's positives to take from it as well. We did a lot of things right and we moved the ball quickly, we created a lot of chances especially in the second half.

"We just need to do that more often and probably tighten up at the back. Conceding two goals in any game isn't good enough so there's work to be done."

Healy and his predecessor as captain, Declan Lynch, had not featured during the McKenna Cup, but the Glengormley man did not use a lack of match fitness as an excuse:

"It is always tough to come back in, but there's 30 other lads who've done plenty of hard work as well.

"In the full-back line you get away with a bit less," he said with a smile. " I think you could see in the second half, we had the legs and we had the chances. It is very frustrating as it is. Next Saturday we'll try and set that right."

Unsurprisingly, Meath man McEntee has gone for physicality in the Antrim team, with the likes of Joseph Finnegan, Conor Stewart, Kevin Small, Pat Shivers, and Aghagallon's Ruairi McCann, although adapting to that new approach won't come straightaway, says Healy:

"We're trying to be physical all over the pitch. With a few big units like that, you are looking to win your kickouts. Against Offaly we didn't win as many as we wanted to. Even in the McKenna Cup games, we won a lot of our own kickouts.

"In the second half, Offaly had our number on the kickouts, getting it quickly to men in the space. That's probably something we can learn from as well."