Neil McManus laments the absence of Casement Park for younger generation
NEIL McManus still harbours hopes of returning to play at the new Casement Park before he retires and explained the affinity he has with the old stadium and surrounding area of west Belfast.
The Antrim hurler, who played a lot of his career at Casement, lamented the fact that the younger generation have never experienced playing there.
“I was thinking about this and I really wanted to go to one of the public consultations and explain how much I got out of Casement, personally,” said the Cushendall man.
“West Belfast was always like a second home to me. Whenever I went to west Belfast you could hardly get out of the place for somebody wanting to keep you there after a game.
“I was as likely to get stopped around Andersonstown as I would be in Cushendall. Our young players now don’t have that affinity because there is probably very few of our players that have represented Antrim in Casement Park now.”
The Casement Park project has been hit by numerous snags since it was announced by local government and the Ulster Council that it would be rebuilt.
Last Friday, The Irish News revealed the collapse of Stormont and the extra costs prompted more fears about the project.
“It’s going on five years since we played there,” McManus added.
“I loved going to Casement, it was the best surface I ever played on. I’d go down to Jim [Duffy], the groundsman, and he’d let me in early to hit a few frees before a National League game on a Sunday.
“And the people you’d meet in the Gem, the wee shop across the road, and then going down to Fusco’s for an ice-cream. All those wee things, and you knew you could park your car in front of [former Antrim hurler, Brian] McFall’s house across the road…
“I think a lot of Glensmen throughout the years built up a real affinity with west Belfast and the people of that area.
“Anybody under the age of 26 or so will have no grá or love built up for Casement and that’s the saddest bit. I wish they had the same affinity to west Belfast as I have through that stadium.”
Meanwhile, McManus was hugely encouraged by the Antrim hurlers’ gutsy performance in Galway last weekend, where they went down to the All-Ireland champions by three points, having led with 14 minutes remaining.
“I’m very proud of the effort and desire displayed by every player last Sunday,” he said.
“Our aim was to produce a performance and we did that.
“That level of performance is what we now must replicate now. There’s a huge amount of passion for Antrim hurling in our group.
“We played with great heart and intensity against Galway. We were brave in possession and worked so hard for each other.”
The 29-year-old, who hit 10 points in Salthill, hopes they can reproduce the same kind of performance against Dublin on Sunday in their second Division 1B game which has been moved to Corrigan Park.