GAA Football

Antrim defender Peter Healy calm about Allianz Football League schedule

Peter Healy, in action for Antrim, is relaxed about the Saffrons' new League schedule. Pic Seamus Loughran

PERHAPS it’s due to his experience on work placement at a life insurance company but Peter Healy seems a pretty laidback guy.

The Antrim defender acknowledges he’s keen to be playing football, but he hasn’t got too hot and bothered about the cold weather-enforced changes to the Saffrons’ National Football League schedule.

Lenny Harbinson’s men have yet another free weekend, largely due to scheduled opponents Laois having flights and accommodation booked for their match in London this Sunday.

That leaves Antrim having to play their round five match away to the O’Moore County on the last day of this month or even in April, with a potential Division Four Final appearance after that.

‘Can’t complain’ is a phrase the 21-year-old utters several times during our conversation, and he adopts that attitude towards the new running order:

“It’s a strange one, it’s hard to see how it fits in – I don’t see why the games can’t just be this weekend [as planned]. Some of the older boys are giving out, but I’m happy enough playing whenever.

“It doesn’t change too much for us, just take it game by game – it’s Championship football for us at this stage. That’s how it was last year too, we need to win every game.”

Yet although the actuary student helped UCD to win the Sigerson Cup final last month, beating Ulster University in the semi-finals and NUI Galway in the decider, he insists he isn’t secretly glad of an extended break after the recent snow wiped out last weekend’s GAA programme:

“[Antrim manager] Lenny [Harbinson] has been very good about those of us playing college football. He gave me nearly a week off after it and was flexible enough during it.

“I missed about four or five months there before the League with a groin injury, so I’ve had enough of a break – I’m just looking to play football at the minute.”

His only concern, as a dedicated member of St Enda’s, Glengormley, is what affect the inter-county delays will have on the club scene:

“There is all this talk of April being free for club and now there’s a game on the 7th or 8th of April…

“The club fixtures in Antrim haven’t even been released yet, so the season’s only starting and games are already going to have to be put back…”

However, in keeping with his calm outlook, he reckons the situation will resolve itself, even as counties continue with Championship preparations next month:

“I know they say April is meant to be free for clubs but you [county teams] can’t afford not to train for a month. Still, it’s always been very good in Antrim, there’s no hassle playing your club games.

“It’s different for the likes of Dublin – the Leinster championship doesn’t really start for them until two or three games in. A couple of the lads here [at UCD] are playing for Dublin and they literally get three or four weeks off from training and everything, they’re just released to their clubs.”

His own involvement with his club is more difficult than for most, given that he lives in Dublin, but he has no thoughts of transferring to a club down there – at least not yet:

“No, I’m happy, I’m up home at weekends anyway, I’ve done that for the last few years. I suppose it will probably change when you get a bit older, when you’re working and settled in Dublin, but I’m happy how it is now.”

An accommodating approach from county management has helped matters, Healy points out:

“Last year with Gearoid [Adams] and Frank [Fitzsimons] and this year with Lenny, they’ve been very flexible – I get up once a week for training, I can get out of work early and leave before the traffic, so it’s not too much hassle. Then I get up for a couple of sessions at the weekend.”

As part of a small Saffrons contingent down in Dublin, Healy has to improvise when it comes to training there:

“Obviously you want to make every [Antrim] session but… Some counties have maybe 10 boys in Dublin and they can do their own session.

“Whereas me, Mark Sweeney, and my brother Kristian would meet up the odd Tuesday night and get a session done. I’m heading to meet my brother now, we don’t miss that much. We get a bag of balls, the UCD pitches are good, and we get a session done there.”

Even the heavy snowfall last week, which was even worse in Dublin than in Glengormley – “for once”, laughs Healy - didn’t put him or Antrim too much:

“We were meant to have two sessions outside last weekend, but everything had to be re-scheduled, we ended up having the one session, it was grand, didn’t change things too much. Disruption to fixtures is the main thing.”

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