Saffrons confident, but Lilywhites may just edge it

AFTER Tyrone accounted for Antrim in the Ulster championship, both Seán Cavanagh and Mickey Harte referred to the Saffrons having made it obvious how much they fancied their chances of an upset.

The implication was that Antrim’s players and management might have had a bit too much to say for themselves but nothing has changed in the build-up to their SFC qualifier replay in Casement Park tonight.

Manager Liam Bradley reckoned that Antrim tore up the script by refusing to roll over and die amidst themaelstrom of emotion surrounding the appearance of Dermot Earley in the Kildare jersey in the drawn game played at Newbridge last Saturday, just hours after burying his father Dermot Senior.

Bradley, in between complaining about being abused by Kildare supporters and predicting a tough night for the Lilies because southern teams don’t like to go to Belfast, reckoned his side should have won the drawn encounter.

Yet the stats and the actual trend of the game don’t show that.

They had opportunities to snatch it but from the time Johnny Doyle equalised with an 11th-minute free, Antrim never led.

Kildare dominated midfield and were comfortable in defence.

Only Kevin McGourty of their attack threatened with Paddy Cunningham’s prodigious free-taking keeping them in contention.

At the other end, Kildare created numerous scoring opportunities but kicked 12 wides in the first half. Antrim had none.

The wides count at the end was 22 to 9.

David Whyte (suspension) and Alan Smith (ankle) will boost options during the game for Kildare, while Earley is sure to have more energy for the battle.

Bradley has recalled Micheal Magill to his squad and at some stage the big man could be asked to ruffle the feathers of an opposing unit that had a relatively comfortable time of it last week.

Bradley may be correct that southern-based teams don’t relish the trip to Belfast – certainly emerging successful from Casement Park is a difficult task – but on the evidence of the drawn encounter, Kildare must be fancied to prevail.

Verdict: Kildare


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