Allianz Hurling League Division One, Group B
Antrim v Dublin (Corrigan Park, Sunday, 1.45pm, live on TG4 Player)
THE opening round of the League was always going to be a difficult task against Limerick and so it proved, but Antrim will dust themselves off and get ready for the visit of Dublin to Corrigan Park on Sunday.

When all is said and done, just two points were lost in Thurles and it was the same case for the Dubs who fell to Tipperary on Saturday at Parnell Park.

Both teams will head into this week knowing the stakes are fairly high in terms of making a push to be included in next year’s new-look Division 1A with the winner in a decent place to set their sights on at least fourth in the Group B table and a playoff against the corresponding team from Group A, so it’s a case of what’s done is done after the opening round.

Games between the pair are a regular occurrence in all competitions of late with Dublin winning their Walsh Cup clash last month, while their last visit to Belfast came in the 2023 Leinster Championship that ended in a thrilling draw.

Little by the way of scouting will be needed for either management team this week as they will know all too well what the other brings to the table.

Aside from that draw, Dublin have held the upper hand in meetings between the pair, but were hanging on in the League game last season, so Darren Gleeson’s men will not enter this game with a sense of foreboding and with their ambitions of League progress still intact, the Antrim manager insists this week represents an opportunity to take a step forward.

“The Dublin and Westmeath games are massive for us as there’s an opportunity to go forward (into next season’s Division 1A),” he said of the Limerick game.

“The mindset and narrative of always looking down has to change. There’s a blank page at the start of the year and people are looking down, same for the Leinster Championship where they are looking at the last game against Carlow.

“Let us play the season and have a go at it, show what these boys are about. I fully believe in them, or I wouldn’t have them in.”

Gleeson has been handed something of an injury headache with a lengthy list of absentees with 14 of the squad unavailable for the trip to Thurles last weekend.

However, there may be better news on that front with Eoghan Campbell and Niall McKenna returning to the team for Sunday’s game.

“We have an open-ended squad with a few new guys coming in there from the U20s over the past number of weeks,” Gleeson outlined.

“We’d five members of the U20 panel, nine in total of last year’s U20s - Ronan (McAteer) and Cormac (McFadden) outside of that - so we’re always trying to add new players in.

“The players that were injured: Gerard (Walsh) had a bit of surgery, Mick (Bradley) had a big operation last year that everybody knows about, Niall (McKenna) was sick today - the list goes on.

“Out of the panel of 34, there are 13 or 14 unavailable through sickness or injury. But look, we drive on with what we have.

“Seamus McAuley is carrying a knock as well. We could throw them in, but then risk losing them for five or six weeks, so you have to think your way through the season ahead.”

Those who did play against Limerick gave what they had but coming up against arguably the greatest side to have played the game was always going to be a tall order.

Still, those who played last week and over the next number of games have an opportunity to make the jersey theirs and that is an added challenge Gleeson has laid down ahead of the Dublin game.

“There are some real quality players there who will learn from that and these are the days to learn from,” he insisted.

“Dublin is another opportunity for these guys to bed down a place. People are saying the boys away injured will be back, but there are no guarantees they will get back into the team if these guys can make the push.”

ANTRIM: Tiernan Smyth; Phelim Duffin, Rory McCloskey, Paddy Burke; Conor Boyd, Ryan McGarry, Scott Walsh; Eoghan Campbell, Niall O'Connor; Rian McMullan, Aodhán O'Brien, Niall McKenna; Conal Cunning, Conor McCann, Fred McCurry.

DUBLIN: Seán Brennan; Ronán Smith, Paddy Smyth, John Bellen; Darragh Power, Conor Donohoe, Daire Gray; Conor Burke, Brian Hayes; Fergal Whitely, Colin Currie, Seán Currie; Diarmaid Ó Dúlaing, Cian O'Sullivan, Paul Crummey