GAA Football

Antrim 2020 vision starts with promotion says skipper Declan Lynch

Antrim 2020 vision starts with promotion says skipper Declan Lynch. Picture Mal McCann.
Andy Watters

THE number one target for the Antrim footballers next season is promotion up to Division Three, says skipper Declan Lynch.

After third-place finishes in the last two seasons, the Saffrons are desperate to finally make the breakthrough in 2020 and Lamh Dhearg clubman Lynch says playing football at a higher level is essential for the county’s future development.

“Our aim is getting promoted,” said Lynch.

“If we want to improve as a county we’ve got to get out of Division Four and we’ve been in it for too long.

“We’ll use the McKenna Cup as a platform to get out of it. I think other counties are in a better position – they can try a lot of players in different games whereas we need to fine tune this year to give ourselves a bit of momentum for the 26th of January.

“There are strong counties in the competition that we need to get ourselves right for.”

Antrim have been drawn in Group B, along with Down and Fermanagh, in Ulster’s pre-season competition. Experienced forwards Paddy Cunningham and Tomas McCann have returned to duty for next season – both were part of the side that reached the Ulster final back in 2009.

“Paddy was captain of that team and they pushed Kerry all the way in the Qualifiers,” said combative wing-back Lynch.

“So they’ve been there and they know what it takes to get out of Division Four. We have brought in a few other boys who have added to the panel and will add to the team. So we are in a good position I feel, yes we have lost a few we would love to have had but it’s up to other boys to step up because the talent is there in Antrim it’s just getting ourselves in a good position and in a good place to have a real crack at getting out of Division Four.

“We have a few new faces who will be pushing for a spot on the team never mind being in the panel.”

Among the new faces in manager Lenny Harbinson’s panel for next year are Peter Healy, Dermot McAleese, Ronan Delargy, Adam Loughran, Mark Jordan, one of the stand-out players in the Antrim championship, and Ben Rice. Those players will all need to step up to the mark as Antrim seek to move on from losing Matt Fitzpatrick, now playing soccer with Coleraine, who was Antrim’s outstanding individual last year.

“Fitzy is a class act and he would stand out in any team in Ireland,” said Lynch.

“As an Antrim player I’m sad to see him go but as a friend I’m delighted for him that he has that opportunity to go and try something new.

“He’s class, he’s a gifted player who would grace most teams and he is good at anything he puts his hand to. Good luck to him for that but the door will be open for him to come back if he wants to and if he can.

“It’s his call. If there’s a way I’m sure we could get him back in but, at the same time, he’s starting a new adventure with Coleraine and fair play to him and good luck with that. He has to give that his 100 per cent commitment and I can only wish him good luck.

“As an Antrim Gael, I would love to see him lining out beside me on the 26th of January but these things happen.”

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