McManus "a wee bit excited" by April 12 date
THE April 12 date for the return of organised GAA training has Neil McManus “a wee bit excited”.
While dates for games are not nailed down yet, and the Republic is still moving at a slower pace than the north, the last few days have felt like the first significant green shoots for sport in a while.
“Even whenever you are just talking to some of the other lads, you start to get a wee bit excited. There are no two ways about it,” said the Cushendall native.
“Especially probably at this stage of my career, every year is a prisoner, I cannot wait to be back on a field. That kind of interaction you can't really get from meeting up in any other way than when you are with a sports teams.
“You have got these 25 or 30 all with the same goal. Sure the craic is unbelievable, and that kind of feeling of community, especially when it is with your club, and we are a very small area.
“We would be very committed and very determined as a group of players. And the WhatsApp has been bouncing since that came out yesterday, that it looks like we are going to get the go-ahead, and we couldn't be looking forward to it any more, to be honest.”
Antrim are hoping to get a Division One campaign after winning promotion and the Joe McDonagh Cup last year.
McManus missed almost the whole championship barring a substitute appearance in the final, though he says he was able to enjoy watching more hurling than he ever has.
A league campaign that is due to pit them against Kilkenny, Clare, Wexford, Dublin and Laois remains under significant threat and for McManus, the format he wants the calendar to take is the one that gives them “as many games as possible”.
“It's exposure to the higher level of competition that will improve Antrim so any format that includes all the allotted games is what I would be in favour of.
“I'm still optimistic that the league and the championship can both be played. I think there is enough time.
“I think players are usually happy to reduce training and allow more games. I think there is opportunity, there is a timeframe there that will facilitate playing all our games.
“It will be decided really by when we get the go-ahead, we have our four weeks' lead-in time done and how long of a window do we need to play all those games.
“The championship was game after game last year and people really enjoyed it. I watched more hurling probably than I ever have because the games were coming thick and fast, it was very enjoyable from a spectator point of view.
“I know as players we enjoyed it too. Maybe there's something we can replicate there.”
McManus was yesterday helping to launch the GAA's Community Heart Programme, which allows clubs to fundraise for life-saving Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) via a bespoke fundraising platform.
The Antrim hurler's father Hugh's life was saved in 2015 by an AED used by local first responder Joe Burns, who arrived within minutes of Neil's 999 call.
Hugh suffered a heart attack but was one of what is believed to be 42 lives saved across Ireland by the use of AEDs that were located within GAA facilities.
“We got very lucky on the day, how Joe was at home whenever the phone call came and he was right beside the hurling field, where our AED is stored on outside wall. He was up at the house within five minutes.
“Without him, my father wouldn't be here today. It's massive because to be able to have him there at my own wedding, and to have him there, a couple of years ago we won our club championship, him being involved in that team and stuff.
“They're big big parts of my life as well as his. Without that AED being available that day, he wouldn't have been here.”