GAA Football

Antrim minor boss Collie McAllister frustrated by absence of Dunloy players on his panel

Dunloy minors celebrate winning the Antrim football title last October, but the club does not have any representation on the county’s minor squad for this year’s provincial campaign, which starts on Saturday against Monaghan Picture by Seamus Loughran

THE Dunloy minor footballers may have skated to last season’s county title – but they don’t have any representatives on this year’s county minor team.

Antrim minor boss Collie McAllister, whose side take on Monaghan in Saturday’s provincial quarter-final, is dismayed by the notion that he won’t have any of the Cuchullain’s players available.

“Our county champions have no representation on the county minor football squad,” said McAllister.

“Where would that happen in Ireland? No-where. Dunloy are minor football champions and very good champions, who beat my own club [St Gall’s] quite handy in last year’s final, but we have zero representation on our county panel. That shouldn’t happen.”

While McAllister is quick to cite the emerging good work being carried out by the ‘Gaelfast’ project – whose primary aim is to increase participation rates in Belfast – he says it will take a tremendous amount of patience before seeing the GAA-backed scheme's endeavours come to fruition.

“There is an amazing amount of apathy in our county where you don’t have people dying to pull on the county shirt.

“It should be a way of life and until we ingrain that in youngsters… Our senior team is in Division Four and it’s maybe easier for other counties so maybe we have more work to do than anybody else.”

Since assuming the presidential reins, John Horan has questioned the wisdom of county development squads around the country. But McAllister has stressed the importance of them in raising standards.

“If a club is going to send a child to a development squad, the coaching that they’re getting must be better. Sometimes clubs feel they’ve got the best so we need to break that.”

McAllister added: “It depends who is in charge of the development squads and each county must ensure their structures are the same right through because I have them at one level and the next manager might have a different philosophy and it’s going to be lost on the players.

“So there needs to be a defined structure. And I think with the emergence of ‘Gaelfast’ and Paul Donnelly heading that up, he will make sure the structure is right. There has to be joined up thinking as well because I need to be talking to Hugh McGettigan, the U20 manager, and our senior manager Lenny Harbinson so that when players do move on the process and the structures are the same…

“These particular boys are at a crucial age because they have AS and GCSE exams and you want them to keep playing Gaelic football for the rest of their lives.

“So this is a crucial point for them. It’s hard for a county like Antrim because we’re not blessed with facilities so we need honest players, we need them to commit, we need them to travel because it’s a massive county and we need them to enjoy it. And in the development squads the enjoyment should be there. If the enjoyment is not there, you’ve lost them.”

McAllister, who played for St Gall’s, assisted John Rafferty when the Milltown men reached the 2010 All-Ireland Senior Club final at Croke Park.

Two seasons ago, he answered a call from Hugh McGettigan to get involved with the U17 and minor teams that ran parallel in 2017.

“I saw the workings of a county team and how it should be done. At that particular time we had a great panel – (2017) MacRory Cup winners from Magherafelt – so we had a nucleus of a team.

“It was great to come in and experience that. Then I got experience with the U17 set-up and we beat Armagh and got beaten by Cavan in the semi-final.

“Then I dropped down to U16s and development squads and then I said I’d take a team myself. I knew what set-up I wanted and what I wanted to bring to it so I decided to take the minors and I have to say I’m enjoying it.”

In their Ulster League campaign they had periods of domination but couldn’t translate that into scores and wins. Arguably their most impressive display came against Derry when they lost by three points in Dunsilly.

“What we’re looking forward to play against Monaghan. If we can get an honest performance out the players and be able to look each other in the eye, we’ll not be too far away. But we have to play at our best.”

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