GAA Football

Antrim ace Patrick Gallagher seeing the value of bigger backroom teams

Patrick Gallagher (second from right) in action in Ballybofey last year

ANTRIM defender Patrick Gallagher admits he was sceptical of big backroom teams – but now knows the value of them.

With Lenny Harbinson's arrival as new manager, Antrim's backroom team has mushroomed.

Harbinson brought Brendan Trainer in with him after working alongside the Tyrone man at Ballymacnab while Fintan Devlin of the Loup was recruited as strength and conditioning coach.

Oliver Lennon, Chris McGee and Barry McManus look after stats and operations. Roy McLarnon is kitman. Peter Bunting is goalkeeping coach and Johnny Kelly is physio.

It's a far-cry from the previous regime where the vast majority of the work was left to joint managers Frank Fitzsimons and Gearoid Adams and assistant Pat Hughes.

“It's a bigger backroom team this year,” said Gallagher. “You always hear of Dublin having big backroom teams. Until you have one, you wonder what they all actually do.

“So we've a far bigger backroom team than we had previously. The support wasn't really there for Gearoid and Frank but the support is there now.

“Instead of Frank and Gearoid trying to everything themselves along with Pat Hughes, we've now eight to 10 men doing all the work.

“Everyone has got very set roles – on the pitch and off the pitch – so that's the biggest change.”

Last year, Gallagher started the season as a stop-gap full-back but flourished in the role as Antrim's campaign progressed.

He was arguably Antrim's best player in their Ulster Championship defeat to Donegal in Ballybofey last season and looks favourite to nail down the position for Saturday's provincial clash with Down.

However, the Glenavy man is taking nothing for granted.

“I think the experience of last year has definitely helped me, but there is more competition for places this year because Ricky Johnston's back and Conor Burke. Last year, I was the only full-back in the panel. Now you're fighting for your place; I'm not guaranteed I'm going to start. But I feel I'm a lot more composed because of last year's experience.”

Gallagher has enjoyed working with new boss Harbinson this year and got a good insight into the St Gall's All-Ireland winning manager of 2010 during a recent training camp in Johnstown, Co Meath.

“He's intense but intense in a good way,” said the 28-year-old.

“He is very prepared and committed. He'll go through everything with a fine-tooth comb and he'll come out with some things too that had us laughing last weekend, slagging boys.

“He'd be ultra-serious and then he would just break into something. It's funny. But you can see how much he loves Antrim. He played for Antrim for so many years and it seems he's always wanted to do this. He's here now and he's giving absolutely everything. You couldn't ask for any more.”

Gallagher has also been impressed with the statistical breakdowns the players are given on a week to week basis by Oliver Lennon.

“Oliver would send you through pre-match and post-match stuff. He keeps you up to date. There is some amount of collating. They say to us that they could give us more but choose not to.

“At the start I was thinking: ‘Are we going to get this for every single match?' because it might be too much, but it hasn't been like that. It's useful where you can pick things off it.”

Meanwhile, Gallagher is mystified the Ulster Council will not bring the Antrim-Down game forward by a couple of hours in order to increase the attendance at Pairc Esler as the 7pm throw-in time clashes with the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid.

“It's disappointing our game is clashing with the Champions League final,” said Gallagher.

“I'm a Manchester United fan so I probably wouldn't watch it anyway, but it's about people coming out to watch our game. Hopefully there will still be a good crowd.”

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