Matthew Donnelly enjoying life under Antrim senior hurling management team
ANTRIM hurler Matthew Donnelly has praised the senior management team despite two narrow losses to Galway and Dublin in this season’s NHL Division 1B and says they’ve helped him rediscover his love for the game.
Donnelly, who stepped away from the Antrim panel a couple of seasons ago, is back playing at centre half-back and loving every minute of playing top flight hurling.
“This management team is very direct but they have fun too, and that’s always a positive,” said Donnelly, who missed last season’s Christy Ring final run due to a knee injury.
“There’s no bulls**t with them. There are some managers that are serious the whole time but those boys make it enjoyable and when it matters they get you motivated. And they’ve shown faith in me and that’s all you can ask for.”
Antrim still have to face Laois (Saturday February 17, away), Limerick (Sunday February 25, home) and Offaly (Sunday March 4, away) and even though they’ve no points on the board, the pair of performances against Galway and the Dubs will give them hope they can finish outside of the bottom two who will play-off on March 11.
Antrim suffered stoppage-time heartbreak at home to Dublin last Sunday having battled back from six points down at half-time to tie the game.
But with the last puck of the game, Donal Burke won it for the visitors.
“The boys put in a great shift in the last 10 minutes against Dublin,” said the Ballycastle man.
“Against Galway we played a good 60 minutes and died a death, so the Dublin performance was good. It’s just disappointing with the result.
“But this is where you want to be playing. You want to be playing these sorts of teams. We want to go out and give it our all. To be fair, every man has done that. They put their shoulder to the wheel and dug deep for the full 70.
“Boys are going out and putting their bodies on the line to win the ball. It’s enjoyable. I took a year out a couple of years back and I’m really enjoying it. This management team and the players that are there, I’m enjoying hurling again.
Meanwhile, joint manager Dominic ‘Woody’ McKinley has vowed the Saffrons will fight “tooth and nail” to remain in Division 1B next season – and says the management team are hugely encouraged with the attitude and application of the squad.
“We’ve competed with Galway and Dublin. That’s a long way to come,” said ‘Woody’.
“I’ve said it so many times. Every bar and everywhere the players go they’re being told they’re not good enough. They have so many to win over and we’re trying to get them to shut that out and come in with this mental attitude.
"If we perform and train properly and turn up every night, which we are doing, we know we’re not that far away. We’d love to stay in Division 1B and we’re going to fight tooth and nail to stay in it.”