THE final Walsh Cup fixture for Antrim takes place at the Darver Centre of Excellence on Saturday (2pm) as they face a Galway team that is already through to the final.

Last Saturday, the Saffrons failed to fire in attack against Westmeath and paid the price with a two-point defeat in a rather poor affair at Abbotstown, but with a National League owner against Kilkenny now just a couple of weeks away, any gremlins in the system must be eradicated so a performance is required this weekend to set them up for the challenges ahead.

 

Defensively, Antrim didn’t do much wrong against Westmeath, but the struggles in attack were obvious and they will aim to be a lot less wasteful in front of the posts.

Another performance like last weekend could result in a very long afternoon against the Tribesmen who have impressed against Westmeath and Dublin, while it is also a possible last chance for new players to be considered for inclusion in the League.

“We are playing an opposition who have beaten Westmeath by 11 or 12 points, so it’s a big challenge for us,” said manager Darren Gleeson.

“Our eyes are firmly on the League and we’re training away through to that. The Walsh Cup is great to get matches, but when you talk about looking at (new) lads, when they get the opportunity they have to take it or they won’t see any League hurling - that’s the way it is.

“We’ll regroup, have a heavy week’s training and the match on Saturday, then it’s a two-week lead into the league and that is where ultimately we’ll be judged.”

Antrim were due to face Donegal in the Conor McGurk Cup semi-final at Owenbeg on Monday but snow in north Derry forced that game’s postponement. As we go to print, a rescheduled date has yet to be set.

It has been a hectic run of games, but ample opportunity for players to get up to speed and despite a lengthy injury list and the absence of the Dunloy contingent, Gleeson insists those who have played in January still need to perform to the standard that is expected.

“We’ve five guys that are long-term injuries we’re trying to get back and we’re without the Dunloy lads, but that’s not an excuse,” he stressed after the Westmeath game.

“When you pull on the Antrim jersey, there’s a level of performance that’s required and that wasn’t it.”