Folow us on social media

Sign up to our mailing list

Understrength Saffrons must restore pride says skipper

Antrim captain, Declan Lynch insists the huge turnover of players isn’t an excuse for their disappointing League campaign ahead of Sunday’s round four clash with London at Corrigan Park Antrim captain, Declan Lynch insists the huge turnover of players isn’t an excuse for their disappointing League campaign ahead of Sunday’s round four clash with London at Corrigan Park
By Paddy Tierney

Allianz Football League Division Four
Antrim v London (Sunday, 1pm, Corrigan Park)

AT the midway point of the league campaign, Antrim have little more than pride to play for as they welcome London to Corrigan Park on Sunday.

Three successive defeats to Derry, Wexford and Leitrim means that a run of four wins in their final games won’t be enough to see the Saffrons escape from Division Four.

Captain, Declan Lynch admits the prospect of a third consecutive season in the basement division in 2020 annoys them, but insists Antrim have been better than their results suggest.

“It is very disappointing and it is something new for us because I don’t think we’ve ever been out of the race so early in the season,” said Lynch.

“The pride hasn’t changed regardless of the results. We are still proud to put on the Antrim jersey.

“It is a hard one because we’ve played well in stages. We’ve slipped at times during matches and it has cost us dearly.

“On a whole, we’ve played well against Derry, we played well in the first half against Wexford and I thought our performance against Leitrim was the best of the year. We didn’t get the result and we didn’t get the rub of the green.”

Indeed, Antrim could and probably should have plundered results against Derry and Leitrim. They were hit by a sucker-punch winner from Derry in the closing moments, while they surrendered a one-point advantage late on in Carrick-on-Shannon.

The Saffrons have been understrength for the first part of the season as their Naomh Éanna contingent were unavailable due to their club commitments.

Odhran Eastwood is set to return to the fold, while James McAuley’s performances have earned him a call-up to the panel.

However, the Healy brothers – Peter and Kristian – are to take an extended break from the county panel.

Peter is in his final year at University College Dublin, while Kristian is recovering from a groin injury which has plagued his season.

Experienced campaigners Kevin O’Boyle and Conor Murray are also sidelined through injury, while Mark Sweeney has also stepped aside from the panel.

It is understood that Ruairi McCann (Creggan) and Darren McCormick (Randalstown) have also departed, but Lynch insists the Saffrons cannot use absenteeism as an excuse.

“You can go through so many players who aren’t there, but where do you draw the line? I firmly believed at the start of the League that we would be able to compete and get promoted,” stated Lynch.

“I think our performances showed that. It came down to a bad decision here and there on our behalf in terms of game management. I don’t believe that players not being available has cost us.

“Each person has a valid reason for not playing. A few boys have dropped off the panel in recent weeks so we are down in numbers again. We are up against it, but the panel is still good enough to put a string of results together.”

The aim for Antrim now is to build some momentum ahead of their Championship campaign, which starts with a quarter-final meeting with either Tyrone or Derry with Armagh likely to host to that game.

Lynch stressed that the Saffrons need to get a few wins under their belt prior to their Championship opener.

“I’d be hoping for a backlash this weekend,” added the Lámh Dhearg defender.

“We need to show people we are better than those results. Just because we aren’t competing for All-Irelands doesn’t mean we aren’t proud to wear the jersey.

“All the lads want to go out and put in a performance. We are disappointed in ourselves. If things had have gone our way we could be up there challenging, but it is gone now.

“We can’t go out and feel sorry for ourselves against London. It is going to be a tough game and we are looking to build a bit of momentum at this stage.”

Lynch’s club mate, Ryan Murray remains an injury concern for Sunday’s clash with the Exiles at Corrigan Park.

Murray, who scored 1-5 against Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon, has an ongoing ankle injury which has limited his ability to train in recent weeks.

The absence of Sweeney will force Harbinson to rejig his starting 15. Stephen Beatty could join Marty Johnston at midfield with youngsters Eoghan McCabe and Owen McKeown among those vying for a starting berth, while Naomh Éanna skipper James McAuley could make his senior debut this weekend.

Please follow and like us: