Kildare travel north this weekend, to Corrigan Park, Belfast where they taken on Antrim in Round 2 of the SFC All-Ireland qualifiers Photo: Pat Tinsley
For the second year in a row, Kildare head North in the hope of getting their season back on track in the abyss that is the All-Ireland Football Qualifiers. Last year, it was Owenbeg as Kildare comprehensively got the better of Derry before defeating Mayo, Longford and Fermanagh as they qualified for the Super 8’s.
This time, it’s the unusual setting of Corrigan Park in Belfast as Casement Park continues to sit idle with no news on the redevelopment and Antrim being the opposition. Corrigan Park which is home to the St John's Club usually has a capacity of 2,600 but it has been cut to 2,000 for this game and Antrim will surely look to use this to their advantage.
It’s a tight pitch with Grassy Banks surrounding the periphery of the venue and its uniqueness will certainly roll into the favour of the Ulster team. It’s a big deal for Antrim hosting a home game after they had to move their Ulster Championship Tie with Tyrone to Armagh and they were easily defeated in the end.
The Saffrons spent the Spring in the bottom tier of the National Football League and narrowly missed out on Promotion as they finished in 3rd position. They will come into this game in confident mood however after they got the better of Louth on a 2-16 to 1-11 scoreline in Round 1 In Drogheda.
The tie brings back memories of the two game saga in 2010 where the inspirational Dermot Earley lined out for Kildare just hours after burying his father and after drawing the game on that sun kissed evening in Newbridge the Lillywhites finished the job in the Replay.
There will be no Replays here though with all Qualifiers scheduled to end on the day even if it takes a penalty shootout.
Still Cian O’Neill’s Kildare side will be heavy favourites and rightly so after a decent enough performance against Dublin although they would have liked to have been much closer on the scoreboard.
The forward unit worked well with the link up play of the Newbridge double act of Adam Tyrrell and Ben McCormack particularly striking but for the amount of ball they had 0-11 was a pretty poor return all told for Kildare.
This will be a game they will expect to win though and with Mick O’Grady tightening up the defence upon his return in the Longford Replay.
Naturally when you are beaten in a Leinster Semi-Final by 15 points questions will be asked but there were enough positives there for Kildare to bring in to this weekend.
The real unknown is the power of the venue and Kildare know more than most what that can do - but if they get that right, they should have enough about them to secure a place in the hat for Monday morning's draw.
Game starts at 3pm in Corrigan Park, Belfast, Kildare v Antrim, Round 2 of the SFC All-Ireland qualifiers.
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