I would still love to play for Antrim under Enda McGinley admits Matthew Fitzpatrick

Matthew Fitzpatrick would love to be involved with Antrim again this summer, but knows his soccer commitments with Glenavon come first. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
Matthew Fitzpatrick would love to be involved with Antrim again this summer, but knows his soccer commitments with Glenavon come first. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

HE has had no problem finding the net in the blue of Glenavon during recent weeks, and Matthew Fitzpatrick hasn’t given up hope of pulling on the Saffron jersey at some stage this summer either.

The St John’s clubman is one of the top footballers in Antrim but hasn’t donned county colours since moving into the world of Irish League soccer with Coleraine at the end of 2019.

However, with the GAA still awaiting a green light for a return to training next month, there could be a possible window of opportunity for Fitzpatrick. The Irish League season finishes on April 24, with the Irish Cup then running until the May 21 final.

The 26-year-old would love the opportunity to get back involved with Antrim under Enda McGinley and his management team of Stephen O’Neill and Sean Kelly, but knows there are issues that would need to be resolved first.

“I don’t really know because it’s not entirely up to me. I would like to play,” he said.

“I haven’t spoken to Enda in a couple of months, when he got the job I told him the same thing, that I’d love to play for Antrim under him, Stevie O’Neill and Sean Kelly, but it was going to be a matter of me sorting my priorities out.

“Enda was 100 per cent and said we’d play it by ear. I understand where he’s coming from… if I was a manager and someone couldn’t commit enough, I wouldn’t have him in my team. It’s just a problem for me because I want to do both, and I don’t know if it’s going to be able to happen.

“At the end of the day I’m a Glenavon player, Gary [Hamilton] needs me to be on the top of my game for Glenavon, so I completely get where he would be coming from too.

“Those are the problems you face. In an ideal world you’d be able to get something sorted, but I’m not going to hold my breath.”

The inter-county season is scheduled to kick-start the return to competitive action, with a tentative date of May 8/9 expected to mark the start of the National League.

And it will be an exciting campaign as Antrim once again go in search of promotion from Division Four, having been placed alongside Mickey Harte’s Louth, Tony McEntee’s Sligo and Leitrim, managed by former Cavan boss Terry Hyland, in the division’s northern section.

Should all go to plan, Championship action would get under way in June. The Saffrons lost out to eventual Ulster champions Cavan in the quarter-final, and Fitzpatrick admits it was tough watching the county from afar.

“It was hard.

“It’s been my life for the last six or seven years, they’re all my mates and I love playing for Antrim… it would be a lot easier if I didn’t care. If I wasn’t too fussed I would be happy enough but I do and I miss it at times, so it was tough.

“When you’re young, you think you’re just going to play forever and you take it for granted, but when you get to 26 you start to look over your shoulder a wee bit – that last year with Antrim [in 2019] was probably the best I’ve played and then you’re not there any more.

“Sometimes I think ‘what am I doing?’ but then I’m enjoying the football… I torture myself a bit with it. I do think about it all the time.

“With Enda, Stevie and Sean coming in, it’s an exciting time for players and Antrim fans, and I do genuinely believe they’ll do well. Enda will be brilliant and hopefully he’s there for a long time - I’m sure they’re all just dying to get at it now.”