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Up-and-coming Antrim forward Ryan Murray looks ahead to the 2013 National Football League campaign

Murray looks to make an impression

By David Mohan

AS the new season prepares to get underway, hope springs eternal among Antrim fans as to what 2013 has in store but those hopes aren’t confined to those behind the white chalk.

With a new manager with fresh ideas, the new faces in the panel will be trying their best to impress as they stake a claim to be a regular on the team for 2013 and one of those is Ryan Murray.

The 19-year-old Civil Engineering student at Queen’s University joins older brother Conor in the squad and he is hoping to be given the nod to start against Cavan in the opening league fixture this Sunday.

The precocious talent made his senior inter-county debut with ten minutes remaining in Semple Stadium last summer as Antrim exited the Championship at the hands of Tipperary and with that taste of life at the top level, he is looking forward to more.

“I was called up last year although I didn’t play too much,” recalls the Lámh Dhearg man.

“Last year I was playing away with the Under 21s and Liam Bradley then called me into the squad at the tail end of last year. I was happy enough with how that went and this year things have been going good. I’ve been playing away with Queen’s so I’m just looking forward to getting the National League started here.”

Murray says he is enjoying his time under new manager Frank Dawson and having spoken to some of the senior members of the panel, revealed the change in management is like a breath of fresh air.

He said: “Frank has been great in terms of my involvement with Queen’s. Sometimes there are clashes with training or matches and he has been really helpful in terms of letting me go to Queen’s some nights and vice-versa.

“So far everyone is training well and obviously I know some of the fellas who have been around for a lot of years now and they all seem to be rejuvenated with the new manager.

“They have been saying there is a really fresh feel about the place and it’s going well.”

Dawson reported that he was happy with the progress the squad made during the three game Dr McKenna Cup campaign that culminated in a draw away to Derry.

While a rare victory in the Oak Leaf County ultimately eluded the Saffrons, there were real positives to be taken from that game.

One was the performance of Murray who kicked three points and offered hope that he may be part of the solution to Antrim’s age old problem of a lack of scoring forwards.

“I was happy enough (with his performance). I picked up a wee niggling injury, a tear in my quad there around Christmas so I wasn’t back training there until the last two weeks before the Derry match,” he explained.

“That was my first real game playing with the senior team so I was happy to get a few scores on the board and hopefully I can push on and be in with a shout of playing in the match against Cavan.”

That performance will not have escaped the notice of the county manager who has opted to start the 2010 Ulster minor club winner against Terry Hyland’s side this weekend:

“There is still a lot of competition (for places) around the half-forward and full-forward line because of the new faces that have come in. Of course there are players who have been around for the last few years too so hopefully if I keep working away in training I will get a chance to get a starting jersey.”

Cavan will come to Casement Park hoping to end a three game losing streak against Antrim that stretched back to the 2009 Ulster semi-final.

The Breffni Blues are in the process of rebuilding after a disappointing 2012 that saw them just about retain their Division Three status. With players from the back-to-back Ulster Under 21 winning side starting to break onto the team, they will hope for a better showing this year and Murray is aware of the quality they possess.

However, he is hoping Antrim can maintain their fine run over their Ulster rivals but is predicting a close encounter.

“We are looking at getting promoted but all of the teams in Division Three are of a similar standard,” he stressed.

“Cavan have had a lot of success recently, especially with their Under 21s, so I’m sure they have been training hard but like any game in Division Three, it’s going to be decided by a point or two. Cavan will be right up for it but so will we and we will be looking to get two points to start off.”

Antrim’s Division 3 Fixtures:

Sunday February 3: Antrim v Cavan

Sunday February 10: Sligo v Antrim

Saturday March 2: Antrim v Fermanagh

Sunday March 10: Wicklow v Antrim

Saturday March 16: Antrim v Roscommon

Sunday March 24: Antrim v Meath

Sunday April 7: Monaghan v Antrim

The Antrim team for Sunday’s league opener V Cavan is: 

1. Chris Kerr
2. Kevin O’Boyle (captain)
3. Paul Doherty
4. Niall Delargy
5. Tony Scullion
6. Justin Crozier
7. John Carron
8. Michael McCann
9. Sean McVeigh
10. Conor Murray
11. Kevin Niblock
12. Brendan Herron
13. Michael Pollock
14. Michael Herron
15. Ryan Murray


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