NAVEL-gazing is not an option for Antrim’s footballers at Markievicz Park on Sunday (2pm) as they face into a key game against Sligo.

Defeat to Down last weekend was their first dropped points of the campaign and in what is a fiercely competitive Division Three, there is little more room for error.

That is also the case for the Yeatesmen who have bounced back from their opening day loss to Clare with wins over Wicklow and Limerick, leaving them level on four points with the Saffrons and the Banner - the trio two behind Down and Westmeath.

Therefore, the significance of this weekend can’t be understated as the victor will remain firmly in the hunt for one of the promotion slots, but defeat could well leave a mountain to climb to reach that objective.

Paul McNamara’s first-half goal proved crucial to Sligo’s victory over Limerick at the weekend as Tony McEntee’s men also enjoyed a good spread of scorers.

In contrast, Antrim fell flat against Down as they just couldn’t push now when drawing level in the second period as they were deservedly beaten.

Momentum may have been halted, but Antrim manager Andy McEntee insists his players can’t wallow in what might have beens but instead, dust themselves off and get ready for what will be a big test on the road.

The last time the counties met was back in 2021 at Corrigan Park when Paddy Cunningham landed a stunning late winner, but victories in Sligo have been hard to come by over the years, so nothing less than their best will do.

“The great thing about this League is we could sit at home and feel sorry for ourselves about today, but we have to switch our focus straight away,” said McEntee after Sunday’s loss.

In terms of personnel, the Antrim manager doesn’t expect his lengthy injury list ease this week.

The Saffrons have been without a host of players including Peter Healy, Patrick Finnegan, Conor Stewart, Ryan Murray, Stephen Beatty, Adam Loughran, Aghagallon’s Ruairi McCann, Conhuir Johnston, Kevin Small and Eoghan McCabe.

All would be in the running for starting places but they remain in the stands, rather than on the field and McEntee believes the nature of the split season between club and county hasn’t helped.

“It seems to me a lot of counties have injuries, but the structure of the season just doesn’t help that,” he opined.

“There’s no break for these fellas. A lot come back into this (inter-county) environment carrying knocks from the club season and it just seems to get worse.

“I’d like someone with a bit of authority to look at the sense of this so-called split season.”