Liverpool's Champions League heroics can inspire us: Antrim boss Lenny Harbinson
LENNY Harbinson says his Antrim players will embrace the challenge of facing the winners of Tyrone and Derry in the Ulster Championship on May 25 – and drew inspiration from watching Liverpool’s Champions League heroics in mid-week.
The Merseyside club managed to overturn a 3-0 first leg deficit to Barcelona to win 4-3 on aggregate on Tuesday night in one of the greatest comebacks ever witnessed.
Speaking at last night’s Antrim press night at Tir na nOg Randalstown GAC, the Antrim manager says his players were counting down the days to their Ulster Championship showdown with the winners of Sunday’s preliminary round game.
Nobody gives Antrim a chance regardless of who emerges after this weekend.
“That’s the joy of sport, isn’t it? We’ve just witnessed it this week. Okay, it may be a different code but you look at what Liverpool did against a fantastic Barcelona team. You recognise, appreciate and respect the challenge ahead of you.
“But being involved in sport is about looking forward to those challenges, pitting yourself against some of the best players in Ireland. That’s what you want to be doing – you want to benchmark yourself to see how you’ll fare both individually and collectively.
Harbinson is working off a panel of 27 players and reported no injuries last night following five rounds of club games in April.
The 2010 All-Ireland Club winning manager with St Gall’s has “no problem” with being completely written off ahead of their Ulster bow in 15 days’ time.
“In any walk of life you have to earn respect. I come from a sales background and managing people; you have to earn respect. It’s the same on a sporting field. The hard facts are that Antrim have been floating between Division Three and Division Four over the last 20 or 30 years, so you can’t demand respect from anybody – you have to go and earn it.”
With a clutch of players walking away from the Antrim set-up after they failed to net promotion out of Division Four, Harbinson was full of praise for those who have committed to quite a heavy work schedule between November and May.
“The group of players that we have are massively committed to Antrim and there is quality among them. I’ve watched them for their clubs and in Division Four this year. In the last game, down in Limerick, they were six points behind and yet they showed the character and determination to come out in the second half and win by four. For me, that is not just about quality - it’s about attitude.
“These are the people who have put their hand up and want to be involved with Antrim football over the next lot of years so they can take pride in that.”
Harbinson added: “Antrim are similar to a lot of counties. Recently there were a number of players that left Kildare and Leitrim have had a couple of players that have gone out to the States. There is a big commitment asked of all players. Some are prepared to put their hand up and really strive to commit to it and there are other people who don’t necessarily do that and you have to respect that.”
Derry coasted to promotion out of Division Four this season with their toughest match coming in the opening day against Antrim when they escaped out of Corrigan Park with a one-point win.
Harbinson, who will attend Sunday’s Ulster clash in Omagh, added: “I think Derry will be very competitive and Tyrone are always competitive and very well organised. We might see a tighter game than what’s anticipated.”