New Antrim boss Lenny Harbinson praises the work of out-going duo
ANTRIM’S new senior football manager Lenny Harbinson has praised the work of previous managers Frank Fitzsimons and Gearoid Adams for introducing over a dozen new players to senior inter-county football in 2017.
Harbinson was unveiled as the new manager after he was ratified at a county board meeting on Monday night.
“In fairness to what Frank and Gearoid did, they introduced a lot of young players for all sorts of reasons,” said Harbinson.
“You can’t just make wholesale changes at county level and expect to get big results. They made big changes for the McKenna Cup; they set out their stall, blooded the youngsters and gave them a good platform in Division Three.”
Conor Hamill, Peter Healy, Stephen Beatty, Brendan Bradley, Conor Small and Pat Brannigan were just some of the names that made their senior debuts for Antrim this year.
Joint managers Fitzsimons and Adams were forced to dig deep into the county’s resources after several experienced players stepped away from the panel at the end of last year.
Compounding the team’s woes, Kevin Niblock had to retire due to injury on the eve of the Ulster Championship while James Laverty was also a big miss.
Although relegated on the last day of the season, there were many plus points from an Antrim perspective.
Adams and Fitzsimons walked away from the Antrim job after a nominations process was initiated.
Harbinson, though, was keen to stress the role the pair played in bringing in new faces.
“If you look at the Division Three results they had – bar the Offaly game, which was a one-off – every other game that they played was nip and tuck with only a few points in it here and there,” said the St Gall’s man.
“So there is no doubt those youngsters progressed this year. It’s trying to get a blend of a wee bit of experience along with these younger players and continuing to develop them and build a team structure and our tactics.”
Harbinson has no specific start date as Antrim manager and his sole focus is currently trying to get Ballymacnab into his season’s Armagh SFC final.
The Round Towers face Armagh Harps in The Athletic Grounds this evening (8.30pm) with the winners taking on either Crossmaglen Rangers or Maghrey.
The 2010 All-Ireland Club winning manager with St Gall’s has enjoyed his two seasons with Ballymacnab and managed to return the rural club to the top division in Armagh this year.
“Crossmaglen, Maghrey, Armagh Harps and Cullyhanna have been the four prominent teams in Armagh and there are a few teams on the fringes that on any given day can always compete with them,” he said.
“Maybe Crossmaglen aren’t head and shoulders, out-in-front the way they have been but they are still a very formidable force and they’ve integrated some excellent young players over the last couple of years, namely [manager] Gareth O’Neill’s two sons [Rian and Oisin]. They are two cracking footballers.
“And they won the minor championship last year – so they’re not going away, that’s for sure.”