Kevin Ryan makes six Antrim changes for Laois Leinster opener

Antrim hurling manager Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan's Antrim suffered relegation to Division 2A of the Hurling League three weeks ago
Leinster SHC qualifying round: Antrim v Laois
Venue: Ballycastle Date: Sunday, 3 May Throw-in: 15:30 BST
Coverage: Score updates and report on BBC Sport website

Antrim manager Kevin Ryan has made six changes from the promotion-relegation defeat by Kerry for Sunday's Leinster SHC opening qualifier against Laois.

Recent squad call-up John Dillon is drafted into the defence alongside Ryan McCambridge and Simon McCrory.

St John's player Michael Dudley, Gort na Mona's Dessie McClean and Conor Johnston are called up to the attack.

Odhran McFadden, Eoin McAlonan, Daniel McKernan, Conor Carson, Mathew Donnelly drop to the substitutes.

PJ O'Connell, Antrim's goal-scorer in the 2-16 to 1-18 defeat by the Kingdom, is missing after opting out of the squad along with Jackson McGreevy and Barry McFall.

Armoy man Dillon was among several under-21s drafted into the panel by Ryan in the wake of his team's relegation to Division 2A of the League.

Other recent call-ups Ruairi Diamond, Cormac Ross and Deaglan Murphy are named in the substitutes for Sunday's Ballycastle contest.

Laois haven't played since beating Antrim 2-18 to 1-13 in the Saffrons' initial Division 1B relegation play-off game.

O'Moore County boss Seamus Plunkett has made three changes from that game with goalkeeper Enda Rowland, centre half-back Matthew Whelan and corner-back Brian Stapleton replacing Eoin Reilly, Paddy Whelan and Jimmy Walsh.

That game came three weeks after Laois had already defeated Antrim 1-18 to 1-14 in a Division 1B group game at Armoy.

Laois were fully deserving winners in both those games but Antrim will still feel that they are capable of winning this weekend if they can produce something like their best form.

However, Antrim confidence surely won't be high after their recent travails and all the soul-searching and debate that followed the Kerry defeat among the county's always vocal hurling fraternity.

Defeat will not end Antrim's chances of progressing to the main draw with further qualifying games against Westmeath and Carlow taking place in the coming weeks.

Antrim: C O'Connell; R McCambridge, N McAuley, A Graffin; S McCrory, C McKinley, J Dillon; N McManus, M Bradley; M Dudley, P Shiels, E Campbell; C Clarke, D McClean, C Johnston. Subs: E Gillan, T O Ciarain, E McAlonan, R Diamond, C Carson, T McCann, C Ross, D Murphy, M Donnelly, D McKernan, O McFadden.

Laois: E Rowland; J Delaney, C Healy, B Stapleton; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, C Dunne; Z Keenan, P Purcell; PJ Scully, J Campion, C Dwyer; R King, W Hyland, T Fitzgerald.

WEEKEND HURLING FIXTURES

SATURDAY

Christy Ring Cup round 1

Kerry v Down, Tralee, 13:00 BST

Derry v Mayo, Owenbeg, 14:00

London v Kildare, Ruislip, 14:00

Meath v Wicklow, Trim, 16:00

Nicky Rackard Cup round 1

Donegal v Tyrone, Letterkenny, 13:00

Monaghan v Longford, Clones, 17:00

Fingal v Roscommon, Swords, 17:00

Armagh v Louth, Athletic Grounds, 17:00

Lory Meagher Cup round 1

Fermanagh v Warwickshire, Brewster Park, 13:00

Leitrim v Sligo, Ballinamore, 17:00

SUNDAY

Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Final

Cork v Waterford, Semple Stadium, 15:30

Leinster SHC round 1

Westmeath v Carlow, Mullingar, 15:30

Antrim v Laois, Ballycastle, 15:30

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