Antrim prepares for Joe McDonagh final with last group match against Kerry

Joe McDonagh Cup Round 5: Antrim vs. Kerry (Today, Corrigan Park, 1 p.m.)

By Liam Maguire

TECHNICALLY, Joe McDonagh’s final group match this afternoon at Corrigan Park isn’t dead rubber.

Although Antrim is already through to the final with something to spare, Kerry has an outside chance to turn the tables on Offaly and reach the decider himself.

Despite the loss to Faithful County last weekend, if Kerry can beat the Saffrons on their home turf and Carlow can beat Offaly at O’Connor Park, second place will come down to the score difference.

In this case, with Carlow, Kerry and Offaly all on six points, it would be the Kingdom with the best chance to progress as they have the healthiest score difference of the three, as things stand.

However, such an outcome is unlikely. It would be a shock if Offaly were to drop his position after last week’s epic win over Kerry, not to mention they are a better team than the Barrowsiders.

Equally, while Antrim have nothing to envy from today’s result, they will be eager to catch up on ahead of the final and their entry into the All-Ireland Championship proper.

The Saffrons racked up a mammoth 7-29 at Navan last weekend against a distracted Meath side which confirmed their smooth passage to the Joe McDonagh final. Conal Cunning was in imperious form against the Royals, batting 0-12, while Conor McCann and Paddy Burke both scored a few goals apiece.

Despite winning four out of four games played, Antrim hasn’t quite done his way in the McDonagh Cup to date, battling for narrow wins over Offaly and, more recently, Carlow. Regardless of the likelihood of Offaly dropping his grip on second place, Kerry is sure to give Antrim another Test encounter.

But with massive games ahead, whoever Darren Gleeson chooses to start this afternoon will be keen to claim their position.

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