GAA Football

Antrim's Michael McCann must be allowed the freedom to hit Fermanagh where it really hurts

Antrim's Michael McCann will be an important part of the Saffrons' gameplan to take down Fermanagh  
Sean O'Neill

WATCHING Michael McCann in the recent Division Four final loss to Louth, a couple of things sprang to mind.

One was just how impressive the Cargin man is on the ball and another was that he was much too far away from the opposition goal to really do anything telling with it. With Antrim facing a Championship tussle with Fermanagh in under two weeks, they will surely have to deploy such a talented attacker where he is able to do real damage. That he is capable of doing so has been well proven at this stage of his career.

The Louth loss was, McCann agreed, “a wake-up call”, but he insists there is no panic in the Saffron ranks as a result. Louth were certainly there for the taking had Antrim perhaps managed the five-point lead they grabbed early in the second-half a little better. Their wide count will have to be addressed, as will the issue of dropping scoring efforts short. The latter is a particular concern, as it does not give Antrim sufficient time to set up defensively.

McCann, now in his 11th season with the county, hopes lessons have been learned ahead of the date with the Erne men: “I think we played some good football, we have a few things to address and we [have] tried to do that,” he said.

“I thought we had more than enough chances - especially at the start of the second-half - to put six/seven points in the game. And what we did instead... we let Louth build a wee bit, we let them back into the game and we didn’t manage the game out.

“[But] listen, there were no alarm bells after the league final. I don’t think anybody sat down and went ‘well you know what, the s***’s hit the fan here - what are we going to do?’. It was quite simple what we did wrong and we just need to make sure that we rectify that.”

Fermanagh will, in ways, pose a similar challenge to the Wee county. For instance, they too have a big target man up front in Sean Quigley. Louth had Conor Grimes and he was a serious handful for Conor Burke. Quigley is a better footballer than Grimes and McCann is all too aware of the threat he poses.

That said, he preferred not to get hung up on potential one-to-one battles and insists Antrim need to stick to their game plan from the league and improve as a unit: “[Quigley’s] big, he’s strong, he’s got two good feet, good in the air, he’s not slow by any stretch of the imagination either, so he’ll be hard work,” he agreed.

“They’ve the two Corrigans and they’re hard enough managed too. They play plenty of men back and we know that - they play men back and they will attack at pace. At least [the Louth loss] has given us a wake-up call before it and hopefully we manage it that bit better.

“As a unit, I think we need to be looking more at ourselves than individually and who’s going to mark who. I think we need to just tighten up. I think it’s going to be as a unit how we attack the game, how we set up, how we keep the ball. 

"We sort of veered away from it a bit in the league final and it cost us ultimately, but hopefully we get back to that."

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