Antrim are loving the benefits of the Tailteann Cup and want back to Croke Park: Andy McEntee

‘Getting to play at Croke Park is a big part of our motivation’

Antrim v London Tailteann Cup Quarter Final at Corrigan Park in west Belfast
Antrim manager Andy McEntee. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

ANTRIM senior football manager Andy McEntee says his players have a burning desire to return to Croke Park this season – but have to find a way past Fermanagh in the Tailteann Cup quarter-finals at Brewster Park this weekend.

Antrim were pipped by eventual winners Meath in last season’s Tailteann semi-finals with the two last-four ties again being played at headquarters on Sunday June 23.

“We do talk about the Meath game,” said McEntee, whose side beat London to advance to the quarters.

“It was a great experience, albeit a bitter taste at the end of it, but there’s no doubt these lads want to get back to Croke Park, and want to put it right.

“There’s a genuine feeling that we left that game behind us last year, we certainly had opportunities and with a little bit more composure we could have got the result that day. There’s no doubt getting to play at Croke Park is a big part of our motivation.”

Antrim edged out the Ernemen in last season’s group stages of the lower tier All-Ireland competition, avenging a narrow NFL loss earlier in the campaign.

McEntee is a huge supporter of the Tailteann Cup which has allowed him more time to develop the senior panel as opposed to the old All-Ireland qualifier system which was knock-out.

“The Tailteann Cup is great; if it wasn’t for the competition we probably would have been gone a month-and-a-half ago,” explained the Meath man, who is in his second season with the Saffrons.

“The players then go back to their clubs and everything goes back to scratch, and the teams you’re trying to catch up on have an extra couple of months on you.

“We fully embrace the Tailteann Cup and if we didn’t come out of the right side of the London game there’d be no excuses because we prepared as well as we could prepare for it. It’s vitally important in terms of our progression.”

With a trip to Fermanagh this weekend following Monday morning’s draw, McEntee said: “There’s an awful lot more in us, but there is no second bite of the cherry from now on.”

Tailteann Cup quarter-final draw: Fermanagh v Antrim (Saturday, Brewster Park, 6pm); Down v Wicklow (Saturday, Pairc Esler, 4.30pm); Sligo v Limerick (Saturday, Markievicz Park, 5pm); Kildare v Laois (Sunday, O’Connor Park, 1.15pm)