Cahill banks on youth as Antrim look to break Leinster duck

ANTRIM hurling boss Dinny Cahill has handed out four championship debuts for Saturday’s Leinster SHC clash against Laois at Portlaoise (7pm).

Chris McGuinness and Kevin Molloy will line out in defence while James Black and Conor McCann have been given the nod in attack.

The Ulster side are getting their summer underway without the injured Liam Watson, Johnny Campbell, PJ O’Connell and Cormac Donnelly.

Of that quartet, Donnelly is the only player expected to play any part in this year’s championship. O’Connell and Watson look certain to miss all of this summer’s action because of knee injuries while Campbell is expected to be out of action for about four months because of an ankle injury.

Laois have defeated Antrim in their last three competitive meetings and the two sides approach the championship table having dined on the less fashionable fare of Division 2 this year.

“If you look at the current panel, the average age is 21 or 22 which is very young,” said McManus. “There are going to be three or four new boys making their senior debuts on Saturday evening after coming up through the minors. I feel they are well capable and well ready for it even though they are only 18 or 19.

With the panel so young, it shows we are producing these guys and the future is very bright for us.”

Antrim travel to Portlaoise having failed to win a game in the Leinster championship in their first two campaigns, although they did go on to contest an All-Ireland quarter-final against Cork after beating Dublin in the qualifiers.

“In our first year we were beaten by Dublin and then by Offaly after extra-time last year,” said McManus. “We felt that game came a small bit early for us but you get a second bite at the championship now and that worked out very well for us last year.”

ANTRIM (SH v Laois): C O’Connell; C McGuinness, A Graffin, K Molloy; N McAuley, M Herron, C Herron; P Shiels, B McFall; S McNaughton, K Stewart, J Black; C McCann, N McManus, K McKeegan.

Subs: S Hawes, D Hamill, T McCann, S McCrory, C McFall, Kieran McGourty, M Armstrong, C Carson, J McCouaig, P Doherty, M Rea.

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