Few counties have changed their football team manager as quickly as Antrim.
With no fewer than eight counties yet to officially approve new bosses, Antrim officials have targeted former Meath Supreme Leader Andy McEntee, quickly confirmed his appointment, and now, before the ball was bowled at the County Senior Football Championship, he prepares to conduct a talent trawl.
The team’s progress under the partnership of Enda McGinley and Stephen O’Neill raised the hope that they could make a bold bid for promotion from the Third Division next year, but with Tiletin Cup winner Westmeath, a defeated finalist Cavan, an improved Offaly and an ambitious Ferman. among the parties bracketed with them, Shafran faces a difficult task.
However, McEntee draws inspiration from the Antrim League campaign earlier this year, in which they won three matches and drew one of their seven matches. The form of forwards Pat Shivers, Ryan Murray, Ruairi McCann and Conor Murray proved to be encouraging, while skipper Peter Healy, along with Declan Lynch and the Johnston duo of Martin and Ricky, provided experienced support to the team.
“I looked at the organization in Antrim and studied the county team. Enda McGinley and Stephen O’Neill have certainly done a great job and now the challenge is to build on that. Antrim clearly has a strong desire to succeed and while the third division will no doubt be difficult territory, I feel that if we can start well we can make progress,” McEntee said.
It has been thirteen years since Antrim last appeared in the Ulster Final when they lost to Tyrone and Paddy Cunningham, then the team’s skipper, is optimistic that McEntee can chart progress for the current team.
“There is no question that Antrim has talent and if that can be turned into a winning combination then the team could potentially move up and forward,” Cunningham said.
“I think players have become more proud of their jersey lately and that is definitely an encouraging sign for the future. There were some great games at last year’s County Championship and when this year’s competition starts this weekend I think we can look forward to the same.”
New boss McEntee is known to be looking to find new blood, and with current County Champion Kickham Creggan looking to retain the title they won last year, the championship is expected to open on a high note when they face Lamh Dhearg on Sunday (18:00 p.m.). 00). Both teams are teamed up with local players, which should make the battle even more interesting.
Meanwhile, both Donegal and Monaghan are stepping up their efforts to secure new managers in the very near future.
With the departure of Declan Bonner in Donegal, rumors circulated that 2012 all-Ireland-winning manager Jim McGuinness could be persuaded to take control again, with former player Carl Lacey as his right-hand man.
McGuinness is linked to the Derry City under-19 team and while comfortable in his footballing environment, he can still be coaxed back to the Donegal team.
And while Donegal executives are racing to confirm the manager’s appointment, former Dublin player Jason Sherlock, who went on to become part of the all-conquering manager Jim Gavin’s backroom team, looks like a strong candidate to replace Seamus McEnany as Monaghan’s manager.
Like Donegal, Monaghan has floundered in the Championship this year after managing to maintain his first division status in the League.
On the other hand, Kerry’s double is now on the cards after the footballers’ triumph over Galway in the All-Ireland final last weekend.
This Sunday it is the women’s turn to carry the hopes of the Kingdom as they face the reigning Meath champions in the All Ireland Senior Football Final at Crock Park (4pm). Kerry’s co-boss Declan Quill has already noted that his team’s championship victory over Armagh was central to their drive to the decider.
“Arma were especially strong opponents, but we finished the game confidently. This game should stay with us on Sunday,” Quill insisted.
“The whole district is now talking about football. The number of subscriptions for both guys and girls is high in clubs and it’s just amazing. Every man, woman and child in the county knows that the Ladies of Kerry are in the All-Ireland final.”