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Fennelly already under Faithful pressure

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Offaly manager Michael Fennelly. Photo: Sportsfile

Offaly manager Michael Fennelly. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Offaly manager Michael Fennelly. Photo: Sportsfile

The general consensus was that Offaly's hurlers would immediately bounce back into the top tier of the Allianz HL but they face a make-or-break clash with Antrim on Sunday if they are to save their spring.

Things had been going swimmingly for Faithful boss Michael Fennelly in pre-season as they secured the Kehoe Cup - defeating Antrim by a point last month - but the wheels are threatening to quickly come off.

They were lucky to hold on at home against Meath in their opening Division 2A tie before going scoreless in the final 26 minutes when they fell to Kerry in Tralee last time out.

"You never mind losing but that performance wasn't anywhere near what we can do so that's the most disappointing thing and making decisions that we wouldn't normally make, that's what cost us really," former Kilkenny star Fennelly told Midland Sport after the Kerry loss.

That places even greater pressure on this weekend's O'Connor Park battle as defeat would rule out any chance of promotion and see them stuttering into the Christy Ring Cup, a competition they are expected to claim with some degree of ease.

The retirement of star forward Joe Bergin was a hammer blow, while Shane Dooley is out injured and with Conor Mahon and former captain Colin Egan not returning to the squad, they look bare up front.

Antrim will sense blood this weekend and after comprehensive defeats of Wicklow and Mayo, they head to Tullamore with a spring in their step having drawn with All-Ireland champions Tipperary last weekend.

That challenge game marked the opening of the Davitts GAA Club on the Falls Road in Belfast and pictures of Tipp skipper Seamus Callanan being surrounded by a horde of young supporters highlighted the feel-good factor around Antrim.

Darren Gleeson makes a seven-hour round trip to manage the Saffrons and having been part of many dramatic duels with Fennelly and the Cats when Tipp goalkeeper, the pair look set for another epic duel.

While it is far away from the spotlight, the ramifications for both, particularly Offaly, are hugely significant with the winner taking it all.

Irish Independent