– Saturday 28th June –
All-Ireland SHC Round One Qualifier:
Antrim v Galway
Casement Park, 3.30pm
Ger Loughnane’s Galway go into Saturday’s All-Ireland SHC Round One qualifier at Casement Park having not played a competitive game since their Allianz NHL final defeat to Tipperary in April.
Antrim, on the other hand, go into the match as Ulster hurling champions but have a poor record against the Tribesmen in the qualifiers having lost to them in both 2005 and 2007.
Loughnane has handed championship debuts to three players but seems to have balanced this out by recalling the experienced duo of Ollie Canning, who will captain the side from corner-back, and Eugene Cloonan, who will form the focal point of the Galway attack.
James Skehill, Cyril Donnellan and Joe Canning will all get a taste of championship fare for the first time on Saturday and it will be the latter of the trio that most of the attention will be drawn to.
Canning will be making his much-anticipated championship debut but it should come easily to him as he has been in sublime form already for Galway during the league and for LIT during their Fitzgibbon Cup campaign.
Loughnane can afford to leave players such as Cathal Dervan, Tony Óg Regan, Kevin Hynes, Richie Murray, Ger Farragher and Niall Healy on the bench for the clash with the Saffrons which indicates the strength of his panel.
Antrim are hoping that influential captain Paddy Richmond will recover from a dead leg in time to face Galway, while Paddy McGill of Cushendall has been ruled out of the Casement Park showdown due to injury.
If the home side are within five or six points of Galway at the break they stand a chance of causing a shock but, ultimately, the men from the West should have way too much guile, experience and fire-power and should win pulling away.