Ryan Murray doesn't want to be a casualty of Antrim's lost generation
ANTRIM’S Ryan Muray hopes he won’t become part of the lost generation that missed out on playing on the new Casement Park.
The Lamh Dhearg man says the magic of the old west Belfast venue was one of the reasons why he wanted to play for Antrim.
Now in his seventh season with Antrim seniors, Murray fulfilled a dream by playing at Casement Park in the first couple of years of his inter-county career.
The famous ground was closed in 2013 with the hope of renovation work starting soon afterwards. But the rebuilding has hit planning snags ever since, although Antrim and Ulster officials are confident it will get the green light this year.
“Everyone’s getting fed up with hearing about Casement Park,” said Murray.
“But that’s where I got my first enjoyment out of Gaelic football, going down to Casement. You had your hurl and you headed down to Casement with your mates.
“If things keep going you run the risk of losing a generation. The experiences I had as a kid there are special and are probably why I wanted to play for Antrim. As a kid, I used to think: ‘I’d love to be running out onto that pitch’.
Ryan’s older brother Conor is currently sidelined with a knee injury and is unlikely to see any NFL action with Antrim in 2019.
It was one of Conor’s ambitions to play at a new Casement Park but at the age of 30 time is against the elder Murray.
“I remember Conor saying that hopefully the ground will get sorted and that he’ll get to play a few more years at Casement. Now, I’m five or six years younger than Conor and now I’m hoping I get a few seasons at Casement.”
Having played under Liam Bradley, Frank Dawson, co-boss Frank Fitzsimons and Gearoid Adams, Murray has emerged as one of the best forwards in the county under current boss Lenny Harbinson.
Like Conor, Ryan says there is “no greater honour” in wearing the saffron jersey as Antrim find themselves in Division Four for a second consecutive season.
“You think of how many clubs there are in Antrim and how many players are playing in the county, and yet you’re wearing that jersey, and I’ve had the honour of doing that over the last seven years. Hopefully I’ll be wearing it for another seven. I’m very proud to play for Antrim.”
Antrim rounded off their Dr McKenna Cup campaign with a final group game win over St Mary’s on Wednesday night as they now prepare for their opening Division Four fixture with Derry on Sunday January 27.
“Our main aim for us is to get out of Division Four. I just feel we’re a team that is capable of a lot more…
“You want to be playing at the highest level as possible. If you drop any points at all in Division Four you’re in trouble.
“Last year, we drew with Wicklow and although we lost to Carlow, the reason we didn’t get promoted was because of that draw with Wicklow. There’s no let up at all, you need to be focussed every single weekend and grind out results.
“There’s nothing flashy about Division Four football. I love watching the Division One games on TV – high quality football, top players, lovely scores and quite open play at times. Whereas Division Four is very tactical, very tight, it’s a very different dynamic.
“If you’re looking at the odds, they probably have Derry, Wexford and Antrim as the top three to get promoted, but we’ll be away to Waterford, Limerick, Leitrim and Wexford and are all tough places to go and get a result.”