I still dream of playing at new Casement Park: Antrim defender Patrick McBride
ANTRIM footballer Patrick McBride is optimistic that he will be playing for his county at a new Casement Park in the coming years.
In an interview with The Irish News at the end of November, Antrim chairman Collie Donnelly said he was hopeful “construction will start within the next year and we will be in Casement Park in 2020.”
The Antrim chief added: “We’re hoping for planning at the end of the year and then there is a 90-day window for objections and hopefully this time the project board has been working on the safety elements. I’m quietly confident. We’re supporting everything for the stadium but at the same time Antrim GAA will have to be catered for.”
Still only 24, McBride said: “It’s so disappointing that we’re not playing in Casement Park at the minute. I’d love to be playing at Casement as many times as I can.
“I just think positive about it. I love playing at Corrigan Park but it would be great to be playing our games at Casement Park.
“And I do think I’ll get to play there. I don’t know how many years I’ll get to play there but I’d like to have at least my last few years playing there.”
Despite suffering relegation in 2017, McBride insists the Saffrons were better than what their results showed and is optimistic about getting out of Divison Four next season.
The St John’s defender was arguably Antrim’s best player last season and wants to build on his good form under new boss Lenny Harbinson.
“The Antrim stereotype is definitely frustrating especially when you don’t get results you think you deserve,” he said.
“We go into Championship games always as underdogs and we deserve to be underdogs because we haven’t done anything to deserve the favourites tag.
“But it’s still frustrating – we just need to click. I think it will come soon. I think last season there was more belief in that group of players. It was kind of like: ‘Do you know what, we’re better than what people think.’
“We’re hoping that the experience of Division Three will stand by us this year and hopefully we’ll get out of Division Four.”
On his own form, McBride made a conscious decision to step up to the plate in 2017 particularly with several experienced players being unable to commit to the squad.
“I always felt I played decent for Antrim but last year was the best I performed and I think it was because I wanted to step up. There were players that weren’t there last season that Antrim always looked to – so I just felt I needed to step up this year.
“I think I performed well and I’m hoping to progress again. I’m looking forward to this year and I’m looking to progress further.
“I always knew I could do it but probably never produced it on a regular basis - but I managed to get a bit of consistency in my game last season.”
McBride’s season ended on another sour note when the Johnnies were beaten in the senior final by west Belfast rivals Lamh Dhearg.
And while he felt he needed a break to overcome several niggling injuries, the raiding defender can’t wait to get back out onto the field in next month’s Dr McKenna Cup campaign where Antrim have been grouped with Cavan, Tyrone and St Mary’s.
“We got beaten in the club championship final in mid-October and we were starting training a few weeks later,” McBride said. “Sometimes it can be hard mentally insofar as you haven’t had a break.
“I was playing through injuries throughout the club championship and saying nothing. If you want to play at this level you can’t be searching for breaks every now and again. Now that I’m back training I’m looking forward to playing in the McKenna Cup come January.”