Hurling and camogie

No pressure on Antrim and Tipperary hurlers as they meet again in Belfast

Antrim's Niall McKenna and Laois's Liam O'Connell during last weekend's effective relegation decider at Corrigan Park. Picture by Hugh Russell
David Mohan

Allianz Hurling League Division One, Group B: Antrim v Tipperary (Corrigan Park, Sunday, 1.45pm)

THE pressure is firmly off both Antrim and Tipperary for tomorrow's final fixture in Division One, Group B at Corrigan Park.

Both teams head into the game with little but pride to play for as the Saffrons are already secure in the top flight for another year thanks to last week's victory over Laois that condemns the O'Moore men into the relegation playoff, while Tipperary have won four from four so far and can't be caught at the top of the pile so already know they will face the second placed team in Group A in the semi-final.

The teams met in the final round of games last year too and it was a similar scenario with nothing in terms of the group placings at stake, although Antrim did have a relegation shootout against Offaly hanging over their heads.

There's no such concerns this time around but like the game in Thurles last year, tomorrow's game may give both managers a chance to give game time to some squad members who have seen little action in the League to date.

Rian McMullan, Seamus McAuley, Paul Boyle and Tiernan Smyth have all shown glimpses of what they can deliver when given opportunities in 2023.

Some of those younger faces may get their chance on Sunday as there will have been plenty of sore bodies after their big win over Laois.

Indeed, following that win, Antrim manager Darren Gleeson insisted the focus would now be firmly fixed on the Leinster Championship that begins with a home fixture against Dublin on April 22.

“We can have a cut off Tipp here and then go into the trenches for four or five weeks to get ready for the first two matches in the Leinster Championship: Dublin here (Corrigan Park) and Wexford away,” he said after Sunday’s win over Laois.

“Our focus is now on Dublin and also the injury list as you can see what we’re dealing with in terms of injuries.

“We mightn’t get the results week-in, week-out, but we’re competitive and are within a couple of scores of all those teams - that’s progress.”

As for Tipperary, the arrival of Cahill as manager has already seemed to have resulted in an upswing in fortunes following a 2022 to forget as they failed to reach the semi-finals of the League before losing all four games in the Munster Championship.

They have been the League's big scorers to date with more points registered tallied than any of the other teams in the two groups of Division One, yet Cahill may also decide to ring the changes with next week's semi-final, potentially against Limerick, in mind.

The fact that Antrim have been competing well in all of their games will mean they won't be thinking of going through the motions tomorrow, especially if some new faces get a chance to impress, as heading into the Championship build-up with a spring in their step would be most beneficial.

Hurling and camogie