Dawson plans a victorious send-off for old Casement
ANTRIM team manager, Frank Dawson has called on supporters to give the old Casement Park a rousing send-off by turning up in big numbers to back the team in Sunday's Ulster SFC quarter-final clash with Monaghan.
Work is due to begin on the redevelopment of the ground before the end of the year, so this could be Antrim's last game at the stadium as it currently stands, an occasion which Dawson believes should be marked with a huge turnout.
"We don't know what the rest of the season holds for Antrim. If we go well in Ulster, the games won't be in Casement, and if we find ourselves in the qualifiers, we could be drawn away, so this is a chance to honour a stadium which has an awful lot of tradition behind it. It's also a chance to combine that with supporting the team in a really big way," said Dawson.
He predicts that those who attend won't be disappointed, insisting his team are primed for a big performance against fancied opposition.
"There's talk of the championship needing a surprise result, but we certainly won't regard it as a shock if we beat Monaghan. People will give the winners of Cavan-Fermanagh a good chance against Monaghan if they beat us on Sunday, but we beat Cavan and drew with Fermanagh in the league, so why are we being written off," said Dawson.
Antrim's 4/1 outsider rating is based essentially on the Division 3 campaign which left them relegated, while Monaghan won promotion before going on to beat Meath in the final. Monaghan also beat Antrim by 11 points in the final round.
"That result looks a lot worse than it was in terms of our overall performance. Monaghan took their goal chances and we didn't. We created them, mind you. Naturally, people look at that result and think Monaghan are miles better than us, but we don't believe that for one second," he said.
"With a bit of luck, we would have taken a few extra points more and been clear of relegation. Margins are very tight in all the divisions, so you can easily find yourself at the wrong end of the table without doing much wrong."
Heavy defeats by Meath and Monaghan in their last two games lowered Antrim's stock in all pre-championship assessments, but Dawson is convinced that they are ready to produce a huge effort.
"We've had nine good weeks of hard work since the end of the league. Once we put the disappointment of being relegated behind us, we picked things up very quickly. We're very optimistic about what we can do on Sunday. We're asking the public to turn out in big numbers to honour Casement Park and the best way the squad can do that is to win. That's our aim and we believe we can do it," said Dawson.