Allianz Football League Division Three
Antrim v Westmeath (Corrigan Park, Sunday, 1pm)
WHETHER Antrim find themselves in the promotion mix in Division Three or embroiled in a relegation battle is likely to be decided by close of play on Sunday when they host Westmeath at Corrigan Park.

Andy McEntee’s Saffrons enjoyed a great start to the campaign with wins over Limerick and Offaly, but subsequent defeats against Down and Sligo have left them in a football no-man’s land heading into the final run of games.

Currently, they sit in fifth with four points on the board and welcome a Westmeath team that is joint-top with Down with a 100 per cent record.

A win against the Lake County this week and they are right back in contention with a trip to another of the promotion hopefuls, Clare, to come on St Patrick’s Day. However, defeat will end any hopes of competing at the top and instead they will suddenly be left to look over their shoulder.

Antrim led 1-9 to 1-8 at the break at Markievicz Park on Sunday, but were completely overpowered by the Yeatesmen in the second period as they ultimately fell to a 1-20 to 1-12 loss - the manner of it most disappointing for all involved.

“We were a point up at half-time after a good spell to finish the half,” goalkeeper Michael Byrne reflected.

“I think then it was 12-3 in the second half and that can’t happen. To be blown away like that was really tough to take.”

There is no time to dwell on that game as they challenge is greater again this week.
Antrim’s players and supporters need little reminding of the last meeting between them and Westmeath.

Last year in Mullingar, they fell to a jaw-dropping 31-point reverse, but such a margin must be considered something of a freak as in a competitive division, it seemed just one of those days where it all went right for the hosts and all wrong for Antrim.

That will be a little added motivation for Antrim this week but not the sole focus, as putting the recent results behind them and reviving their hopes of a promotion push are at the forefront.

“This is a good opportunity to put the Sligo and Down games behind us,” Byrne agreed.

“If we can lay down a marker this week, it will show we’re a much better team than what we’ve shown in those games.

“We had good spells in both of those games, but it’s about showing that for a full 70 minutes and over all four games we haven’t produced a full 70 minutes. Everything has been fits and starts, so trying to put together a complete performance is the aim.

“We’ve Clare to play as well, so it (promotion) is not gone although we have put ourselves in a tough position.

“You still can’t feel sorry for yourself as this is a new game and we want those two points on Sunday. Get those two points and you’re back on the horse.”

That trip to Ennis is expected to be just as tricky as this week and with Wicklow currently scrapping for their lives at the bottom on the final day to come, there is something of a cup final feel to each of the remaining games.

When it's considered that the teams involved in their own battles at each end of the table are set to face each other in the coming weeks, points will be dropped and a final tally of 10 could be enough to secure Division Two football next year, but by the same token, remaining on four could spell curtains.

The Rossa goalkeeper knows that and is, like his team-mates, determined to show what they are capable of, beginning this week as it could be a definitive day in their League campaign.

“When you look at the tests to come, it doesn’t get any easier,” he stressed.

“This week, we’ve Westmeath who are probably the best team in the division on paper along with Down. Then we have Clare who came down (from Division Two) this year and Wicklow who will likely be fighting hard to stay up.

“With the League the way it is now, everything comes thick and fast and you don’t have time to sit and feel sorry for yourself. You just have to get back at it and prepare to put in a far better performance this week, especially when you’re at home to show that (Sligo defeat) isn’t what we’re about.”

Ladies in key Sligo clash
Antrim’s ladies are also preparing for a crunch home game on Sunday when they welcome Sligo to Davitt Park (2pm).

Emma Kelly’s side are yet to pick up a point in Division Three despite having chances to do so in most, but there is simply no more room for error this week if they are to avoid the drop.

Defeat to Down a fortnight ago left them marooned at the bottom and with two teams to be relegated, results must come now and especially this week against a Sligo team that has picked up just one point to date - a draw against Offaly on the opening day.

A win for Antrim will give them a fighting chance of survival with Louth currently on four points heading into the weekend with the Wee County hosting joint-leaders Clare.

Antrim have yet to face the Banner and Roscommon who are tied at the top, so this Sunday is of the utmost importance to them.