Antrim captain Declan Lynch praises veteran trio's return
ANTRIM senior football captain Declan Lynch has hailed the contribution of Mick McCann and Paddy Cunningham after the pair were enticed back to inter-county duty after time away from the set-up.
Cargin ace McCann entered the fray with 20 minutes to go against Carlow last Sunday and was instrumental in hauling Antrim level in the closing stages to grab a share of the spoils and keep their promotion hopes alive.
Cunningham has also made light of his six-year absence from the inter-county stage, featuring heavily on the scoring charts for the Saffrons.
Tomas McCann, Mick’s younger brother, was also persuaded back to the fold this year and his nearing full fitness after injury.
Lynch was a big supporter of manager Lenny Harbinson inviting the McCanns and Cunningham back to the fold in 2020 and feels the trio offer more than just experience.
“They have been a massive plus to the squad,” insisted Lynch.
“Mick McCann came on in the second half against Carlow on Sunday. While he didn’t do anything special he played a massive part in getting us back in the game just with his composure on the ball.
“It’s unfair to just say they bring experience – they deserve to be in the panel and are playing on merit. Paddy Cunningham has played well in the games so far and I feel there is still more to come from him.”
Antrim can put themselves right in the promotion frame if they can inflict the first defeat on Limerick in Portglenone on Sunday with the Shannonsiders winning four out of four.
“I’m like a broken record at times but promotion is the most important thing to us,” said the Lamh Dhearg clubman. “Winning an Ulster Championship game is great and probably brings a bigger buzz to our supporters but as a county we need to get out of Division Four. It’s a necessity.
“And the longer we stay in Division Four the less progression we’re making in the county. We’re in a good place at the minute. We lost by a point to Sligo. We missed a few chances and then we didn’t play well against Carlow but we didn’t lose and we’re still in the hunt. If we win on Sunday against Limerick it’s in our hands.
“The following week Wexford have to play Limerick and there’ll be points dropped there. If we win our remaining games we’ll be up.”
Creggan’s Marty Johnston is nearing full fitness again while St Enda’s flying machine Kristian Healy is back training with Harbinson’s squad.
Lynch, who was sent off in the latter stages of the Carlow draw after two yellow cards, doesn’t feel Antrim have been firing on all cylinders this season but hopes they can produce somewhere close to their best this weekend.
“I don’t think we’ve played to our potential yet. That’s a negative and a satisfying thing at the same time insofar as we’re still in the hunt,” he said.
“I think there’s a big performance in us on Sunday. We owe it to ourselves and the people that come to watch us. This time last year we were done [out of the promotion race]. So we have a lot to play for.”