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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Paddy Tierney

Antrim anxious of further departures to US ahead of Tailteann Cup campaign

Antrim’s forthcoming Tailteann Cup campaign could be undermined by further departures from the panel following their heavy 1-20 to 0-10 defeat to Cavan at Corrigan Park on Saturday.

However, assistant manager Stevie O’Neill stressed that the Antrim management wouldn’t stand in the way of players looking to spend the summer in the US.

First-choice full-back Ricky Johnston left the Saffrons just two weeks before facing Cavan in the Championship and it is understood the Creggan clubman is already stateside.

Read more: Antrim vs Cavan: Player ratings from Saturday's Ulster SFC tie

His club-mate Oisin Kerr has also left the panel in recent weeks along with fellow goalkeeper Luke Mulholland.

The much-maligned Tommy Murphy Cup suffered greatly as players left county panels once their team exited the provincial stage.

O’Neill says he understands the lure of America, but has urged Antrim to regroup for the next stage of their Championship campaign.

“I am sure that the boys who are committed to playing football here will want to give a good account of themselves in the Tailteann Cup,” O’Neill said.

“I enjoyed a summer there too (in America) so I can’t complain if somebody wants to do that.

“If you’re a young lad and you want to do that, I have no issues with that.

“Everyone makes their own decisions themselves.

“But if there is anything in anybody, they’ll want to show something better than that today (Saturday).”

Antrim defender Ricky Johnston opted off the panel ahead of last Saturday's defeat to Cavan and the Creggan clubman is set to play football in America this summer (©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo)

Indeed, few envisaged such a one-sided victory for Cavan with Antrim competing in Division Three this year while the Breffnimen won Division Four.

Despite only leading by a point at half-time, Cavan were much the better side playing against the breeze.

Gearoid McKiernan’s second half goal was the catalyst for Cavan to pull clear while Mick McCann picked up a second yellow card for the Saffrons midway through the second period.

"We knew we were going to be in for a battle," added O'Neill.

"Cavan were Ulster champions two years ago and have been on the road for a long time with strong, physical men and we just had no answers.

"We were happy to be within a point, but the number of chances Cavan missed in that first half, we'd have been disappointed that way.

"We just looked very nervy, had a lot of silly turnovers, giving the ball away cheaply and a good team will punish you."

“This is just a disappointing end to the Championship. We just have to regroup and focus now on the Tailteann Cup.”

Cavan boss Mickey Graham, meanwhile, was happy that his men came into Saturday’s game under the radar having plied their trade in Division Four this season.

“We were wrote off in a lot of quarters before we came up here, but that’s understandable,” said Graham.

Cavan manager Mickey Graham was happy with his side's display against Antrim on Saturday (©INPHO/John McVitty)

“We were coming up from Division Four and our performances in the league weren’t mind-blowing. We just done enough to get out of it.

“That was a tough wind to play against and considering all the football we played we were frustrated to be only a point up at half-time.

“We felt with the wind at our backs we would pick a few scores off in the second half, and lucky enough we did.”

Read more: Ruairí Canavan shows he’s a chip off the old block with wonder score for Tyrone

Read more: Score recap as Cavan defeat Antrim by 13 points in the Ulster SFC quarter-final

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