Top Antrim hurling displays earn John Dillon merit award
Some players show promise from an early age and others don't catch the eye until much later in life. John Dillon is a prime example of the latter.
He never played minor or under-21 hurling with Antrim but he is now one of the Saffron stars at the age of 30, playing like a traditional full-back.
April was a busy month for Antrim camán wielders.
They played five game, in three different competitions and against four different counties, with an undefeated run. It was probably the busiest few weeks the players ever witnessed but success made the journey that little bit easier.
First, it was Carlow that Antrim played in the NHL Div 2A when a win took the Ulster side up to Div 1B next season.
Next up was Donegal in the Ulster Championship, followed by Carlow again – this time in the opening round of the Christy Ring Cup. It took overtime to decide that battle but, again, Antrim came out on top.
Armagh then fell in the Ulster Championship and the Saffrons polished off their month's work with a Christy Ring victory over Down, to qualify for a semi-final clash with the Mourne men, next Saturday.
Dillon was a stonewall full-back in that rollicking run and earns the Quinn Building Products Ulster GAA Writers' Merit Award for April because of his authoritative displays.
He follows in the footsteps of 'keeper Chris O'Connell, the January winner and we must go back to 2008 to find two Antrim hurlers getting the award in the same year. Neil McManus and Sean McNaughton were the last Antrim duo to win in the same season.
“It is great to have Chris behind me. He takes charge in all situations,” said farmer John. “Kevin Ryan called me up two years ago as a squad member but the following week I played in the Leinster SHC against Laois. Then the present managers Dominic McKinley and Terence McNaughton gave me my chance again and things have been going well since.
“We play Down again next Saturday, at Cushendall, in the Christy Ring semi-final, and it would be nice to win and get to Croke Park for the final,” added the Armoy Glen Rovers' stalwart.
Praised joint manager Dominic McKinley: “John plays like a full-back of old. He has matured into a commanding and intelligent player, making the right decisions.”
Also considered for the April award were Tyrone hurling full-back Brendan Begley, Donegl sharpshooter Geraldine McLaughlin and Donegal ladies' football manager Micheál Naughton, who led the ladies to the Div 1 league final.
As his award, John Dillon receives an engraved Belleek Living vase, hand-crafted cuff links from Carlingford Design House and training gear from O'Neill's International Sports. He will also receive an invitation to the next Quinn Building Products Ulster GAA Writers' annual presentation function.