Friday 24 January 2020

Niblock determined to make the most of rare Croker visit

Antrim captain Kevin Niblock. Photo: Oliver McVeigh / Sportsfile
Antrim captain Kevin Niblock. Photo: Oliver McVeigh / Sportsfile

John Campbell

He may have had his problems with injuries recently but Antrim captain Kevin Niblock will happily go through the pain barrier if it means mounting the Hogan Stand steps at Croke Park today to collect the Allianz NFL Division 4 trophy.

Niblock, a polished playmaker and accurate finisher, hopes a fusion of these qualities will help carry the Saffrons over the line against a Louth side striving to prove that they are a lot better than they showed in the recent drawn game between the teams.

Along with Michael McCann, Sean Burke, Kevin O'Boyle, Justin Crozier, Niall McKeever and Conor Murray, Niblock has soldiered at the coal face for longer than he might care to remember and that's why he attaches special significance to today's mission at Headquarters.

"It's rare enough for Antrim teams to get to play at Croke Park and you never turn your nose up on an occasion such as this," he said. "As well as giving us the chance to get our hands on a trophy, this affords us an ideal build-up to the Ulster Championship in which we will be meeting Fermanagh in just three weeks."

The intensity levels at recent training sessions coupled with the return of several players from injury means that Antrim go into the match fortified by a new ration of self-belief - a quality not always inherent in the county. Yet they are aware that Louth did not show their hand in the drawn game.

"We know they will come at us this time and we have to be ready," said Niblock. "They had a good look at us when we played them but I think they will have more to offer."

Antrim have conceded just two goals to date while at the other end Tomas McCann can deploy his blistering pace to good effect while Niblock's craft and subtle lay-offs will be instrumental.

Louth possess pace and power and an ability to move the ball smoothly from defence to attack - something that could unsettle Antrim. But Niblock is convinced his team's current mind-set will stand to them.

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"I think it would be nice for the older hands to bring a cup home and this could provide the spur for us," he added.

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