GAA Football

'I will play for Antrim until I'm no longer required' - Conor Murray

Conor Murray hopes Antrim can restore some pride to the saffron jersey against Offaly tomorrow night

ANTRIM footballer Conor Murray says he will keep playing for his county until they tell him he’s surplus to requirements.

The Lamh Dhearg clubman has enjoyed only fleeting moments of success in an inter-county career that stretches back 10 years.

Antrim made yet another early Ulster Championship exit, losing to Down by seven points a fortnight ago. It was a particularly bitter pill to swallow for Murray after the squad chalked up over 100 training sessions between October and May – but the 29-year-old’s pride in wearing the saffron jersey remains undimmed.

“I have three kids and sometimes in the winter it’s difficult going to training,” Murray admitted.

“But this is my 10th year representing my county and I’m going to keep doing it until they tell me to stop playing. Sean McVeigh said something like that and I would have the same mindset.

“You’re born in your county and you play for your county. You’re representing your family, your school, everything. No matter what happens, I’ll keep going and try and help my county as much as I can.”

Murray was still in school when he was first called into the Antrim senior football panel back in 2008 by former boss Jody Gormley. He was part of the Antrim squad that won the last Tommy Murphy Cup competition before progressing under Liam Bradley.

He was on the fringes of the Antrim side that reached the Ulster final in 2009, coming on as a substitute against Tyrone and again in the memorable All-Ireland Qualifier against Kerry in Tullamore a week later.

Since ’09, the Antrim footballers have won just won Ulster Championship match – beating Fermanagh in 2014 – and have suffered early back-door exits during that period.

Lenny Harbinson’s side face Offaly in their opening All-Ireland Qualifier in Tullamore tonight as they bid to restore some pride to the county.

“We’re a very young side,” said Murray.

“There is me and ‘Kobo’ [Kevin O’Boyle] – we’d be the oldest ones. You just don’t want this generation of players to be thinking of ifs or maybes. There needs to be some type of culture change. ‘Kobo’ and me will just keep going. It’s nothing that we wouldn’t do for our clubs or anything, it’s just hard when you’re training for so long and you come to the big Championship game and you play the way we played.”

After a bright opening against Down, Antrim fell behind by seven points at the break. They drew the second half in Newry – but were chasing a lost cause as soon as Kevin McKernan found the net for the Mournemen.

“We all want to play under Lenny but nothing went right for us on the night. There have been no complaints about anything – strength and conditioning, anything we wanted to do, we just didn’t perform at all.

“We tried certain things and they didn’t work. Down were just that level above us and when they got the goal just before half-time the game was over, and we were chasing it.

“When you’re training all year and you perform well below what you’re capable of, that’s the most disappointing thing. Hopefully we can perform better against Offaly because it’s a game we can definitely win.”

Meanwhile, first choice ‘keeper Chris Kerr (foot injury) has been ruled out of tonight’s Offaly game with Rasharkin’s Andrew Hasson expected to make his debut.

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GAA Football