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More negative headlines for Antrim despite win over Laois

Antrim manager Frank Fitzsimons masterminded a shock win over Laois last weekend
Off the Fence with Brendan Crossan

IT COULD only happen in Antrim. The senior footballers go and cause the biggest shock of this year’s Championship and the good news story is swallowed up by a series of negative headlines.

It really is astonishing. The county board took the brunt of the criticism – in fact, that’s not exactly true: they took all the criticism in the aftermath of last Saturday’s epic All-Ireland Qualifier victory over Laois.

Clearly, the board should have postponed a club hurling game involving three county players from St Gall’s – CJ McGourty, Kieran McGourty, and Conor Burke – the night before Antrim’s Championship tie with Laois.

The county was also criticised for using a couple of last year’s jerseys. Anyway, brace yourself…

‘Former Antrim player’ left this voicemail: “As a former Antrim player I can only express my disgust with all things GAA in county Antrim. This is, without doubt, the worst board I’ve had the displeasure to encounter, from the ridiculous handling of the Casement Park social club issue to the latest debacle involving the St Gall’s hurlers/county footballers. Their decision to cancel all county football matches in the run-up to the Laois match was the correct one. But to not cancel the St Gall’s hurling game defies belief.

“I also doubt any county in Ireland would do a three-and-a-half hour journey on the morning of the game for an important match.”

Antrim carried the following on their website in relation to that hurling match: "All the Division 1 hurling games fixed for this weekend were originally set to be played on Saturday.

"St Gall's and Clooney Gaels re-fixed their game to be played on Friday night. This re-fix was agreed by both clubs. Friday night was not imposed by CCC.

"Another club with a fixture set for Saturday rearranged their game for Sunday because they had a county footballer. The option to play the game on Sunday was open to both clubs.

"If the game had not been rearranged by both clubs and the fixture had still been fixed for Saturday CCC would have moved the game to Sunday if requested. CCC did not change the game because it was the two clubs who agreed to the setting of the game on the Friday."

HERE’S more of the same from 'Aghagallon Massive'.

“As satisfying as it was to see the Saffrons roar back on Saturday from the depths of despair, one thing stood out: Were there not enough of the 2015 jerseys to go round?

“I know this might not seem like a big deal when compared to the bigger issue but it is really asking too much for the entire squad to be wearing the same kit?

“Well done to Frank and the lads on a great victory.”

Apparently some of the Antrim players swapped jerseys with their Fermanagh counterparts after the Ulster Championship match, and the few missing jerseys were replaced by older ones. Shouldn’t have happened but there are worse sins.

‘MARTIN’ emailed to demand change at county board level in Antrim.

“It's my honest opinion that the Antrim County Board is unfit for purpose. Surely it is past time that the decent majority of Gaels working tirelessly for GAA clubs in Antrim got together to bring about change.

“Congratulations to Frank Fitzsimons and his team for achieving a marvellous result against Laois. Aontroim Abú.”

As one county officer tweeted after Michael McCann quit the panel for a perceived lack of “buy-in” from the board, he asked where are the dissident voices when county convention comes around?

‘TYRONE Caller’ rang to praise Antrim manager Frank Fitzsimons and thinks he should stick with the starting team that beat Laois for their sequel with Fermanagh at Brewster Park on July 5.

“Another good result for Antrim,” says ‘TC’. Hopefully they can keep it up. I hope Frank Fitzsimons has the guts to not start the three players who played for their club last week, even though they were right to play for their club, I think he should start the team that won them the game against Laois. He can maybe bring them on.”

ONE Texter paid tribute to Frank Fitzsimons and the brilliant form Ryan Murray showed in O’Moore Park, bagging 1-5 from play.

“Fair play to Frank Fitzsimons and the rest of the Antrim lads, answering the critics by taking Laois’s scalp - particularly Ryan Murray who’s finally starting to show on the county stage what he’s been doing for Lamh Dhearg for the past few seasons.

“Although Antrim’s problems are by no means gone - the underage structures are still a mess and the players won’t show the commitment required, highlighted by the three St Gall’s lads who lined out the night before in that hurling match.

“If the players would just give the commitment and show the right attitude who knows where Antrim football could be?”

‘ANTRIM Gael’ texted: “In O’Moore Park last Saturday, I thought here we go again. Then, what a thrill to watch a team of young rookies come out in the second half with their heads up and play like warriors.

“And to Frank ‘Fitz’, take a bow for the decision you made - and it’s great to see certain players are not going to run the team. Antrim ABÚ.”

Frank had no option but to take the decision he did regarding the ‘Milltown Three’. But to apportion blame on the three St Gall’s players for trying to “run the team” is twisted logic.

AND now to our favourite pastime: defending our player ratings. ‘Tyrone Gael’ was miffed at our ratings from last Sunday’s Ulster semi-final between Fermanagh and Monaghan.

“Nineteen players were rated for both Fermanagh and Monaghan in Monday’s Irish News. Both teams’ ratings had a total of 122.5, with an average rating of 6.4 per player.

“Monaghan were a class apart yet there is a remarkable failure to recognise this through the odd ratings awarded.

“Also, how a decent Eoin Donnelly performance can get the star man accolade ahead of the hugely impressive Karl O’Connell and Kieran Hughes is bewildering to say the least. Can I do them next week?"

Player ratings are not an exact science and you will find inconsistencies as they are opinions of two reporters, each of whom take one set of ratings.

We accept this criticism. The only thing I would add is Fermanagh were superior in midfield so it shouldn’t mean they be marked lower than Monaghan’s midfielders just because Monaghan won the game.

AND this week ‘Dermy’ provides the feel-good factor to this week’s Off the Fence column.

“I read the article by Peter Makem on the great Sean O’Neill,” says ‘Dermy’. I was involved in underage coaching and a lot of years ago one Sunday morning I went down to the park and there was Sean O’Neill with a Down U8 team. I couldn’t believe it. Thinking about it, that’s what the GAA is all about. People like Sean O’Neill is taking time out to bring kids through.”

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