GAA Football

We can be successful at senior level: St Enda's Glengormley captain James McAuley

James McAuley (right), pictured with Joe Maskey, says it will take a while before he gets over the disappointment of losing an All-Ireland final

ST ENDA’S Glengormley captain James McAuley believes they can win an Antrim senior championship next season.

The Hightown Road club captured the imagination of the country following their remarkable run to last Saturday’s All-Ireland Intermediate football final at Croke Park – but they were defeated by a superior Kilcummin side of Kerry.

After holding onto their Division One status in Antrim, McAuley feels their incredible form in intermediate competition can make them a force to be reckoned with in the senior county championship.

“I think we’re capable of winning a senior championship next year in Antrim, without a doubt,” said McAuley.

“We stayed up in Division One this season because that’s where you want to be plying your trade and then you take it competition by competition.

“We didn’t set out this year and say: ‘We want to win an All-Ireland Intermediate Club Championship’. We set out to win Antrim and then Ulster. That’s the way Frank [Fitzsimons] wants us to think and that’s the way we’ll continue to play.”

Given the evidence of their stunning displays, particularly in Ulster and their All-Ireland semi-final win over Spiddal, there is no reason to doubt McAuley’s assessment of making a splash at senior level.

Erin’s Own, Cargin, St Gall’s, St John’s, Creggan Kickhams and Lamh Dhearg will all be vying for championship glory in 2019.

McAuley was a key cog in Naomh Enna’s dramatic surge to the All-Ireland Intermediate final this season alongside Eoin Nagle, Peter and Kristian Healy, Odhran Eastwood, Killian Jennings, Ruairi Scott, Joe Maskey and Conor McAuley.

The Queen’s University student insists though that it will take a few weeks before he gets over the disappointment of their 13-point loss to the Kerry men.

“Maybe I can look back and say it was an unreal year but it’s hard to look at it that way now,” he said.

“We’ve been beaten in an All-Ireland final. It’s one of the lowest feelings you’ll have in your career but walking off the pitch and looking at all the St Enda’s fans that travelled across the world this week, it means the absolute world to them. Eventually it will sink in and we will look back on it as a momentous year for the club.”

Kilcummin raced out of the blocks in Saturday’s decider and led 2-3 to no score after seven minutes. Kevin McCarthy, the Kerry star, registered a fantastic 3-7 in a peerless display of finishing.

“The whole thing was a bit of a blur,” McAuley added.

“We enjoyed the build-up but we knew the game would go by in a blink. All finals do.

“I just don’t think we got a foothold in the game. We maybe got five-minute periods here and there.

“But, they are a very, very good team and we were beaten by a better team. Maybe that’s the only consolation. We didn’t go out and let ourselves down. We played to the best of our ability and it just wasn’t good enough.

“After going down 2-3 to no score, it’s very hard for any team to deal with something like that never mind a team with an average age of 21 or 22.

“We prided ourselves throughout the year when a team scored a goal against us or a team scored a couple of times on the bounce that we responded.”

Eoin Nagle (1-0) and Odhran Eastwood (0-3) replied for the Antrim men and reduced the deficit to five points at the break before Kevin McCarthy cut loose again with two late goals for Kilcummin.

“They were 2-3 to no score up and you can’t give any team that kind of start in a game and expect to come back and win it. To be fair, we gave ourselves a chance at half-time. We were five points down and that’s more than manageable, but we probably gave them a bit too much at the start of the game.”

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