GAA Football

Michael McCann back with Antrim footballers

Cargin's Michael McCann is back with the Antrim footballers after a three-year absence Picture: Seamus Loughran

MICHAEL McCann has agreed to return to the Antrim senior football panel after a three-year absence as manager Lenny Harbinson throws everything at trying to get the Saffrons out of Division Four this season.

Regarded as one of the best players in Ulster over the last decade, the 34-year-old midfielder has followed his younger brother Tomas back to the county panel.

The McCann brothers had stepped away from the county set-up due to work and family commitments, but with a less demanding training programme in place, the Erin's Own Cargin duo are putting their shoulder to the wheel again.

Michael and Tomas, both of whom have young families and run their own business, never announced their Antrim careers were over.

Notably, Harbinson has decided to double up on their pitch and gym sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays rather than dedicating a separate mid-week night for gym work.

As a consequence, Antrim's sessions are longer but the players are out less nights than in previous years.

McCann proved again in the 2019 SFC that he remains one of the best players in the county as he helped Cargin to back-to-back Championships.

Harbinson has been a long-time admirer of Michael McCann but couldn't entice him back to the Antrim fold when he took the job in 2018.

Speaking to The Irish News two years ago, McCann explained his reasons for declining an invitation to resume his inter-county career

“Lenny sent me [the training schedule] through and there wasn't even a question. I just said no chance, couldn't do it,” he said.

“They were training three nights a week in Belfast between Monday and Friday, and then Saturday and Sunday every weekend.”

Cargin manager Damian Cassidy is a huge fan of the elder McCann, describing him as a “Rolls Royce footballer”.

In 2020, Harbinson has successfully recruited the McCanns and Paddy Cunningham, players that are all over 30.

Tomas McCann, who returned to the fold after missing the 2018 and 2019 campaigns, is still recovering from minor surgery but will be back in contention for Antrim's next NFL game against Carlow in Glenavy (Sunday February 23), while the evergreen Cunningham has resumed his county career after a six-year absence and is the team's leading scorer after three rounds of games.

The trio backboned Antrim's run to the 2009 Ulster final under Derry native Liam ‘Baker' Bradley and remained key players in subsequent years.

After two disappointing League campaigns, Harbinson has opted for more experience in trying to wrench themselves out of the basement division.

While they lost Matt Fitzpatrick to Irish League club Coleraine in the close season, Harbinson has shrewdly replenished his attack with reliable scorers.

And Aghgallon's exciting young duo Ruairi McCann and Eunan Walsh have added a fresh dynamic to a re-worked forward line while Lamh Dhearg midfielder Marc Jordan has impressed since his call-up this season.

Peter Healy's return after a year has also come as a welcome boost to the Saffron defence.

Despite suffering a one-point defeat to Sligo, Antrim are still in the promotion hunt with wins over Wexford and London either side of that slip in Markievicz Park.

Having four home games and just three away this year is also an advantage in their pursuit of nailing one of the two promotion berths.

Their remaining Division Four fixtures are Carlow (h), Limerick (h), Wicklow (a) and Waterford (h).

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GAA Football