Hurling and camogie

Second positive test among Antrim hurlers but McDonagh game to proceed: Antrim chairman Ciaran McCavana

Antrim chairman Ciaran McCavana says it's important the McDonagh opener against Westmeath goes ahead

CHAIRMAN Ciaran McCavana is adamant the Antrim hurlers’ Joe McDonagh opener against Westmeath on Sunday will be played despite a second player in the squad returning a positive Covid test.

It is understood the two Antrim players travelled together in the same car to Tullamore for last weekend’s promotion play-off win over Kerry with a third player.

Not all the Antrim squad have access to a car while others don’t drive and as a result car-sharing to Tullamore was unavoidable.

The squad stayed in individual chalets the night before the game and used two changing rooms at O’Connor Park – one for the backroom team, the other for the 26-man squad.

Antrim officials insisted on the entire squad and backroom team being tested following the first positive Covid test. Those subsequent tests were due to be carried out yesterday and the results known later today.

Unless there are a raft of positive cases that emerge from the blanket testing, roughly 40 people, McCavana insisted Sunday’s Championship tie with Westmeath at Corrigan Park would go ahead.

“We hope the Westmeath match goes ahead,” said the chairman. “We followed the protocol, we stayed in our bubbles. Two of the players who travelled in one of the cars have tested positive for Covid.

“Everyone is getting tested and it is our belief we’ll be able to field on Sunday.”

After clinching a huge victory over Kerry, the Antrim players were asked by photographers to pose for squad celebration pictures at pitch-side, as is tradition.

Undoubtedly, Darren Gleeson’s squad will be down a few men for Sunday’s McDonagh opener including Neil McManus who tweaked his hamstring in the opening seconds of the Kerry game.

Despite the problems, McCavana insisted observing the integrity of the competition was important.

“These games give everyone an outlet but we’ll play with the squad we have,” he said.

“We could use this as an excuse. At the minute, we are without two players due to Covid, Neil [McManus] and one or two others are out with injuries but you have to try and maintain the integrity of the competition and fulfil the fixture and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Asked if Darren Gleeson would be forced to draft in players from outside his current squad, McCavana said: “We’re nowhere near that stage. There’s also an honour in representing your county and I don’t think it’s fair on other counties if we didn’t fulfil the fixture.”

Following yesterday’s announcement that the GAA has been forced to “pause” all inter-county fixtures below senior level after getting clarification from the south’s Department of Sport on the ramifications of the Level Five restrictions, the Antrim U20 hurlers were still intending to fulfil last night’s Leinster Championship fixture in Darver, Co Louth as the temporary shutdown didn’t come into effect until midnight.

McCavana added: “It’s unlikely the U20 competition will get finished but we need a game. We were supposed to play our U17s at Cargin on Saturday and that’s been pulled too. It’s naturally very disappointing for all concerned.”

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Hurling and camogie