January is a mad month for players, says Queen's and Antrim ace Odhran Eastwood
ANTRIM and Queen’s University ace Odhran Eastwood is hoping to put the madness of January to one side and has his sights set on progressing in the Sigerson Cup and getting the Saffrons out of Division Four this season.
On Saturday, Eastwood produced a blistering eight-minute spell during which he bagged 1-3 from play to help Queen’s defeat TU Dublin City in Saturday’s Sigerson opener.
The St Enda’s, Glengormley clubman didn’t have the added burden of preparing for a McKenna Cup semi-final 24 hours later like some of his Queen’s team-mates.
As soon as the final whistle blew at The Dub on Saturday, the Down contingent were in recovery mode ahead of Sunday’s encounter with Tyrone.
Daniel Guinness, who put in an all-action display for Queen’s in their six-point win, was introduced for the start of the second half against Tyrone on Sunday, while Brendan Gallen made substitute appearances on Saturday and Sunday.
Like many top players involved in Sigerson football this month, they’ve had to juggle their university and inter-county commitments with care.
Speaking after Queen’s fine victory over TU Dublin, Eastwood said: “I know there are a few boys scheduled to play McKenna Cup tomorrow which is mad because it’s taken a wee bit of joy out of this for them.
“January is mad, it’s just nuts. Everyone’s talking about it. I don’t have the answer but there’s got to be something that can be done. You can play McKenna Cup for the next 10 years, but you can only play Sigerson for three or four years.”
Queen’s and St Mary’s progressed to next Sunday’s Sigerson quarter-finals with Conor Deegan’s men travelling to face DCU and Gavin McGilly’s St Mary’s side are also on their travels to face UCD.
But, with the start of the high-stakes National Football League getting underway a week after the Sigerson quarter-finals, some inter-county managers will be undoubtedly getting twitchy about their university players.
Eastwood added: “Conor has been 100 per cent so far. I had two nights with Queen’s last week. Things have been flexible so far. But I might get tested over the next few weeks if we progress in Sigerson, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
The picture is further complicated by the U20 Ulster Championship getting underway in early February, with St Mary’s carrying roughly 10 players that will have various masters to serve over the coming weeks.
On Queen’s prospects of going further in this year’s Sigerson, Eastwood said: “We were quietly confident going into the TU Dublin game.
“We knew they had a couple of big names but we know we’re a good team too. Everyone is mates, we stick together and we’ve had good numbers since the start of the year.
“We’d good results in the League as well so you’re always building towards Sigerson. We’re not cocky but we don’t fear anyone at the same time, and scoring 1-14 in this weather will win you a lot of games. There’s no reason why we can’t go further in Sigerson.”
Eastwood played 45 minutes of Antrim’s Dr McKenna Cup campaign and alongside his Sigerson aspirations, the livewire corner-forward wants to see his county get out of Division Four this year.
“We were in Division Three in 2017 and that was really my first year with Antrim seniors so you want to get back there,” he said.
“We know ourselves. We don’t want to be in Division Four. You go all around the country on these long away trips in the division. That is literally the focus every year – getting out of Division Four – and hopefully we can achieve that.”
Antrim open their Division Four account at home to Wexford on Sunday January 26 in Glenavy.