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Offaly to easily overcome Saffrons of little Faith



(Parnell Park, Tomorrow, 3.30)

HAD Offaly been drawn against almost any other opposition than Antrim for their Leinster opener (Carlow and possibly Laois besides), Joe Dooley might have risked injured trio Brendan Murphy, Ger Healion and Ger Oakley.

Yet it is indicative of the low esteem in which Antrim are held right now that the Faithful County boss has elected to keep all three of them in reserve for tomorrow's clash in Parnell Park.

According to local sources, all three could contribute if necessary and might have started if Offaly were playing, say, Kilkenny, Galway, Dublin or Wexford, but such were these county's contrasting fortunes this spring that the gap between them now represents a chasm.

On the plus side for Antrim, veteran Liam Watson has returned to the squad after opting out only weeks ago due to "personal commitments".

He won't start but is likely to see some action as a Saffrons team, ill-prepared by a wretched Division 2, face up to Offaly, who have enjoyed a more progressive spring. Derek Morkan makes his debut at wing-back, and if Offaly forwards Derek Molloy, Joe Bergin and Shane Dooley can find their range early then tomorrow should prove to be no more than a leisurely stroll in Parnell Park.

OFFALY: B Mullins; D Franks, P Cleary, M Verney; J Rigney, D Kenny, D Morkan; R Hanniffy, K Brady; D Currams, J Brady, D Molloy; B Carroll, J Bergin, S Dooley.

ANTRIM: G McGhee; K McGourty, C Donnelly, A Graffin; N McAuley, J Campbell, C Herron; P Shiels, K Stewart; E McCloskey, T McCann, J Scullion; S McNaughton, N McManus, K McKeegan.

ODDS: Offaly 1/14, Draw 15/1, Antrim 8/1