Antrim start search for PJ O'Mullan's replacement
PJ O’MULLAN’S reign as Antrim senior hurling manager lasted a mere 141 days following his shock departure on Friday.
It is understood O’Mullan’s selectors - Gavan Duffy and Paul Graham - would be willing to remain in place given that Antrim’s Christy Ring campaign gets underway in just three weeks time against Kildare.
However, former Antrim manager Terence McNaughton might be a possible stop-gap option in light of the void left by O’Mullan. If McNaughton was persuaded to take the reins on an interim basis, it may hasten the return of the Cushendall contingent following their All-Ireland final defeat to Na Piarsaigh on St Patrick’s Day. Former Armagh and Tyrone hurling manager Mattie Lennon applied for the vacancy late last year, but lost out to O’Mullan, but he could come back into the reckoning.
In a county board statement, O’Mullan cited “personal circumstances” for his departure. But it was no secret the team’s poor performances and some player indiscipline contributed to his departure.
Antrim lost to Westmeath, Carlow and London in Division 2A and only managed to beat Derry and Kildare: “It’s not an easy job and it was obviously a learning curve for PJ,” said county chairman Collie Donnelly, who hoped to have something in place “within the next week”.
Donnelly added: “We’re going to meet as soon as possible and identify three or four people to see where we go. There are two roles here: there is the coaching and the managing people. So we’d be looking for someone with a bit more experience.”
A county board statement released on Friday read: “At a meeting earlier today in the offices of Antrim GAA, the current senior hurling manager PJ O’Mullan has decided to step down from his post due to personal circumstances.
“PJ would like to thank the backroom team and the county board for their support and assistance during his time in charge. The county board would like to thank PJ and his backroom team for their efforts and wish PJ the best of luck for the future.”
The statement continued: “Antrim GAA will meet to consider its options regarding the management of the team for the upcoming Christy Ring campaign.”
O’Mullan could not be contacted on Friday. The Loughgiel Shamrocks man managed his club for five seasons, winning four county titles, four Ulster titles and an All-Ireland in 2012.
The natural step for him was to move up to the Antrim post following Kevin Ryan’s departure last August. Upon his appointment, O’Mullan was overwhelmed and “honoured” to be given a crack at the county job.
In an interview with The Irish News in November, he said: “I’m humbled, I’m shocked, delighted and proud. I’m also very proud for my family - my mother and father - and Loughgiel. I’ve been going to hurling fields since I was four-years-of-age.
“I just can’t thank my mother and father enough and my own family enough for their support. Loughgiel has taught me everything. I’ve played for them, managed them and I’ll try and represent my family and club to the best of my ability and try to instil the things that my family and club have instilled in me. I’ll give everything over to the county scene now.”
Antrim made a bright start to their Division 2A campaign, recording back-to-back wins over Derry and Kildare before falling to Westmeath and Carlow. After the Carlow defeat and with promotion gone, O’Mullan admitted: “I’ll make no bones about it, our season has been a failure.
"I’m there to lead it; I’ll put my hands up. Nobody feels this pain more than I do.”