Antrim manager Sean O'Kane sets priorities for Antrim ladies football success
NEW Saffrons manager Sean O'Kane says he is hopeful the tide can turn in Antrim as they target a Division Four league semi-final place and set their sights on the provincial championship.
It has been a barren couple of years for the Saffrons and although they reached the Division Four semis last year they lost out to eventual winners Wicklow while they watched Fermanagh and most recently Derry claim Ulster junior championship glory the past two years.
They have reached two league finals – but lost both – 2016 to Limerick and 2014 to Roscommon - while in 2017 they failed to make the knockout stages.
Tyrone man O'Kane was appointed boss mid-December and has previously been in charge of Armagh as well as being part of the Donegal management team that won their first ever Ulster senior title in 2015.
He is also currently in charge of UUJ ladies. He has brought on board Tommy Coleman, who has steered Clann Eireann to Ulster minor club glory, former Cavan full back Rachel Jordan and Jim Magee, father of current ladies football and Northern Ireland netball star Michelle Magee.
“I'm still getting to know the players but training is going well and we have good numbers out. We have a job to change the mindset here at Antrim. They were sceptical at the start but they are beginning to roll in and the county board have been very accommodating and where we used to be training on half a pitch here and half a pitch there, we are training at Jordanstown and the Dub.
“We need to be reaching the semi-finals; if we get there we will reassess what teams we have played and where we have to go from there.
“We also need to make a big push for the Ulster championship too. That is on our priority list.”
Antrim begin their Division Four campaign away to Leitrim, who were relegated from division three last season after failing to win or field for many of their games and are back in the bottom tier for the first time since 2010.
“It has been a long time since they were down in Division Four. They didn't play last year and then were relegated. It's a difficult start but we will take each game at a time but at the end of the day if we are not playing well we will not be in a league semi-final.
“We are very hopeful and the commitment and attitude has been very promising. I have watched the underage structure and it is thriving in Antrim. The minors reached an All-Ireland B semi-final last year and hopefully we can bring some of those players through and some players have come back on board. There are just a few weeks before the league begins so now it about fine tuning and preparing for the first game.”
2019 Antrim Division Four fixtures
Round 1 Sunday 3 February – Antrim v Leitrim
Round 2 Sunday 10 February – Antrim v Fermanagh
Round 3 Saturday 23 February – Kilkenny v Antrim
Round 4 Sunday 3 March – Antrim v Limerick
Round 5 Sunday 17 March – Derry v Antrim
Round 6 Sunday 24 March – Louth v Antrim
Round 7 Sunday 7 April – Antrim v Kilkenny