By Paddy Tierney

ANTRIM hurling manager PJ O’Mullan insists he would be satisfied with a one-point win over Derry in Celtic Park this Sunday as the National Hurling League gets underway. The Saffrons are plying their trade in Division 2A following last season’s relegation from Division 1B. While many expect Antrim to seal promotion this spring, O’Mullan isn’t taking anything for granted against the Oak Leafers this weekend. “It is a massive game and it is a derby. Tom McClean (Derry manager) and myself would be friendly – I know Tom well,” said O’Mullan. “It is a serious ask. We are coming down a league and they are coming up a league so they have momentum. “It is a massive challenge. All our focus has been on this game and trying to get off to a good start. “If you gave me a one-point win now I would take it.” “It is a results-based business. “It would be great to get a performance as well but with the conditions and the weather, I’d be happy to take a victory and go home.” Antrim have endured a rigorous pre-season campaign which saw them clinch the Conor McGurk Tournament at Queen’s while also taking part in the Walsh Cup. However, O’Mullan says that the recent poor weather has played havoc with their training schedules. “The biggest problem we have had was getting pitches to train on,” added O’Mullan. “We can’t get training on grass and most of our training and preparation has been done indoors and on 4G. “It isn’t ideal preparation but we just have to make do with it. “That aside, everything else has been good.” “We have most of the players available to us that we wanted. “Obviously there are a few that aren’t – we have five Cushendall players to come in. “Things are very positive and it is just a matter of transferring that positivity out onto the field on Sunday.” Antrim hurlers will be hoping to build on the feel-good factor that currently envelops the county following last weekend’s results. On Sunday the Antrim footballers made it two wins from two with a 1-8 to 0-7 win over Wexford in Corrigan Park. In Navan 24 hours earlier, county hurling champions Cushendall booked their place in the All-Ireland Club SHC final with a deserved 12-point success over Sarsfield’s of Galway. A early penalty from Neil McManus set the Antrim Senior champions on their way and John McKillop’s side never looked back as second half goals from half-forward Sean McAfee and substitute Karl McKeegan sealed an emphatic victory. O’Mullan was in Pairc Tailteann to witness Cushendall’s success and believes the Ruairi Ogs can emulate his Loughgiel side of 2012 and win the Tommy Moore Cup on St Patrick’s Day. “I’ve heard things said about Sarsfield’s weren’t this and that – that is irrelevant,” said the Antrim boss. “Cushendall won and won well – they deserve to be in an All-Ireland final. “From my own point of view, I genuinely hope they go on and win it. “I think another club needs to win it to get rid of some of the inter-club rivalry that’s there. “I think everybody should be rowing in behind them. Their performance was good but they’ll have to improve again. They’ll know that themselves but they are good enough to go on and win it. “It would be great for Antrim hurling and for Ulster hurling if they did.” Neil McManus and Arron Graffin will be unavailable to O’Mullan as they are both travelling after the All-Ireland Club campaign but five of their teammates will join the panel at the end of March. Ryan McCambridge, Eoghan Campbell, Conor Carson and Paddy Burke are feature for Antrim later in the campaign along with one other Cushendall player. When the Cushendall contingent join the Antrim panel, O’Mullan will cut five players from the NHL squad. Paul Shiels is also sidelined as he continues to recover from hip surgery while Clooney Gaels ace PJ O’Connell remains unavailable. CJ McGourty, who made a high-profile switch to the hurlers at the beginning of the year is not included and O’Mullan has confirmed that the St Gall’s ace also intends to go travelling this year. McGourty’s clubmate Jackson McGreevey, who featured for the footballers during the recent Dr McKenna Cup campaign, returns to the hurling panel while Saul McCaughan’s return to the fold has also been confirmed. Ballycastle’s Neal McAuley will captain Antrim in 2016 and O’Mullan feels he has assembled a strong 33-man panel. “I have to thank the county board for allowing me to carry 33 players,” said O’Mullan. “There is a lot of youth in the team but we have plenty of experience too. “There is serious talent out there and there is more talent out there in the county but we can only take 33 players. “There are another 12 or 13 young players out there and we had a let a few players go which is never an easy thing to do.” Loughgiel’s Tony McCloskey will miss Antrim’s opening two league games against Derry and Kildare while Stephen Beatty, Conor McClelland and Michael Dudley are doubtful for Sunday’s game in Celtic Park.