Belfast hurlers must plan long-term says St Gall's skipper Joe McDaniel
SURVIVAL is the name of the game for St Gall’s hurlers in Division One of Antrim hurling this year – but they’re also thinking about long-term progress.
Indeed skipper Joe McDaniel revealed that he’d been chatting with a senior team-mate on the way down to their All-Ireland Club Intermediate Hurling Championship semi-final in Dublin on Sunday about what would be required for a Belfast club to challenge for the county crown.
O’Donovan Rossa are the only city winners over the past 30 years, back in 2004, with Cushendall, Dunloy, and Loughgiel dominating, and McDaniel admitted:
“It would be a few years before we’d be able to challenge. I was talking to Karl [Stewart] on the way down on the bus. If you are really looking to make a dent in the senior championship in Antrim then you have to start at under-8 and load your teams up with good coaches and good numbers right up from under-8 to Minor.
“Then, when those boys do get to senior, hopefully there are a few senior boys hanging around to bring them on. You have to have four or five good hurlers coming every year.
“The team I’m playing on, we won a Minor championship, but there were very few to support us coming on after that.
“Our key priority is to bring through a few younger players over the next couple of years. We want to have a reserve team and blood those boys in. The likes of myself, McGourt [Kieran McGourty], Karl, Mackers [Sean McAreavey], we’re not getting any younger, so someone has to take the mantle off us…
“If a Belfast club is looking to win a senior Championship, it’s got to come from the grass roots, get the juveniles going, and build from there.”
Although St John’s took eventual Antrim and Ulster champions to a semi-final replay last year, McDaniel points to another west Belfast club as more likely SHC contenders in the near future:
“I’ve been coaching younger teams in the club and I would have been impressed with the set-up that St Paul’s have had recently. They’re going exactly what I just said, they’re starting to push every age group, and eventually you’ll see that coming through at senior level for St Paul’s. They’d probably be the team I’d be looking out for.”
St Gall’s were well-beaten by Galway and Connacht champs Oranmore Maree at Parnell Park, but McDaniel insisted they weren’t too downhearted: “There are no dropped chins, this has been a very enjoyable season, and we have Division One to look forward to now”.