GAA Football

I would consider a return to Antrim: Cargin ace Tomas McCann

Cargin's Tomas McCann remains one of the best attackers in Antrim Picture: Seamus Loughran.
By Brendan Crossan

TOMAS McCann says he would consider a return to Antrim colours next season after a two-year absence.

Regarded as one of the best forwards in the county, McCann hasn't played for the Saffrons since the county exited the All-Ireland series to Sligo in 2017.

Speaking to The Irish News, the 31-year-old revealed he hasn't shut the door on resuming his county career and says he wasn't in a position to play during Lenny Harbinson's two-year reign.

Although no decision has been taken on Harbinson’s future, it would be a major surprise if the county board opted for another managerial change.

A combination of family life, building a new house, an ankle injury and commuting to and from Belfast ruled against McCann returning to the fold in 2019.

But if the training schedule in 2020 makes it accessible, McCann would like to play for his county again and he admitted he missed playing Championship football on the provincial and national stage.

“I’ve four wee girls now – aged 8, 5, 2 and 0 – and I was in the middle of building a house last year,” said the Cargin man.

"I was getting jealous when the bigger games began… But there were stages during the season where I was thinking where would I get the energy for it?

An electrician, McCann’s work takes him all over the north and sometimes in the south.

“The problem is if I’m working in Belfast, you could obviously stay up [for training]. I know boys if they were working in Belfast and they’re training in Belfast, they’d go and grab a coffee and chill for an hour-and-a-half, whereas I’m thinking, you can’t really have kids and not see them. So it would mean me going home and going back down to Belfast for training otherwise I would never see my wee’ans.”

Despite an ankle injury (he received injections before every club championship game last season), McCann picked up another winner's medal last October after Cargin edged out Creggan Kickhams in the decider.

Even though he's now 31, not many defences in Antrim have been able to contain him.

With Antrim losing around a dozen players during their ill-fated Division Four campaign last spring, there were some observers who believed McCann should have been recalled by Harbinson for the county's Ulster Championship match against Tyrone and their subsequent All-Ireland Qualifier campaign against Louth and Kildare.

But McCann kicked that debate into touch.

“To be honest, if Lenny had come to me three months ago I wouldn’t have been in the shape to have played Championship because I wasn’t programming myself for county football. There would have been no point in playing me; I would have been no benefit to the team.”

When Mike McGurn was Antrim's strength and conditioning coach under Frank Fitzsimons and Gearoid Adams, the squad was broken into two groups for a brief period to do their gym sessions - one in Randalstown and the other in Belfast - to reduce travel time for players.

Last season, Antrim had no representatives from the club champions Cargin.

“I wouldn’t rule out playing for Antrim again,” McCann said. “I would nearly need to see the training schedule to see if I could commit. I can understand why Lenny wanted full commitment because it takes that that county level.

“I’m living on the other side of Portglenone, so going to Dunsilly [Antrim's centre of excellence site] is only 15 minutes from my house. But I don’t mean: ‘Get the training closer to me and I’ll go.’

“I always loved playing for Antrim… But I suppose when you’re playing football you’re just happy you’re playing football somewhere.”

Cargin, under manager Damian Cassidy, will be hoping to retain their county title this year, and it remains to be seen if having no players on the county panel has helped that process.


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