Football

'When we stick to the plan, we get results': Eoghan McCabe relishing Antrim improvement

Eoghan McCabe in action during Antrim's Tailteann Cup victory over Fermanagh on Sunday. Picture by Philip Walsh
Eoghan McCabe in action during Antrim's Tailteann Cup victory over Fermanagh on Sunday. Picture by Philip Walsh

THEIR slow and steady progress might have slipped beneath the national radar, but there is something building in Antrim as they look ahead to a home Tailteann Cup quarter-final.

Sunday’s victory over Fermanagh was a third on-the-trot for Andy McEntee’s men, backing up earlier wins over Leitrim and Wexford. As a barometer of the progress made, it was also the most significant.

After all, it is only a matter of weeks since the Ernemen topped the Division Three table while the Saffron sweat on survival lasted until the penultimate round of League fixtures.

But, despite slow starts to both halves, Antrim kept their cool in the stifling head, their reward arriving in the form of late goals from sub Oisin Doherty and Aghagallon’s Ruairi McCann.

The Saffrons displayed a composure absent all too often during the year’s earlier months, where positions of control against Down and Fermanagh were surrendered in the dying moments, while a hammering at the hands of Westmeath could easily have derailed best laid plans.

For corner-back Eoghan McCabe, however, the improvement in performance is evidence of a squad growing in confidence and, crucially, concentration.

“Winning is a habit,” said the St Gall’s man.

“It’s something we couldn’t do in the League - if we got a good result one week, we lost the next week. So getting a bit of momentum going, getting into that rhythm, is a real positive for us.

“Even today, when it’s maybe not going for you, you just keep going. You’re looking at the teams that stick to their game-plan - the top teams do that and that’s what we’re trying to become.

“That’s why the big thing Andy has been talking to us about all year is concentration. That’s what lost us some of those games during the League, it almost cost us the Cavan game as well.

“We know these games are going to last 75, 80 minutes so you need to be clued in for every single minute. We’ve been caught before so it’s important we learn from that and keep driving the thing on.

“The way we’ve been coached and the way we’ve been drilled, we’re trying to stick to what we’ve been told, trust in the management, trust in the backroom team.

“When we stick to the plan, we get results.”

The net result is that, regardless of who comes out of Saturday’s preliminary quarter-finals, they are likely to relish a trip to west Belfast the following weekend.

“That was a big motivating factor, because you want to try and make Corrigan a fortress,” added McCabe.

“We wanted to continue our winning ways, and playing in a home quarter-final was a massive incentive – that extra week’s rest, especially with the way the weather is, getting recovered, a week to prepare, it’s huge for us.”

McEntee was a satisfied man after Sunday’s game too, the panel drop-off that has affected Antrim in previous years barely in evidence this time around as the Saffrons aim to make a mark on the Tailteann Cup.

“Whatever about Division Four teams, to turn over Fermanagh, it’s a fair achievement.

“Some people, your ego mightn’t allow you to admit the Tailteann Cup is the place we should be, but it is where we should be. That’s the level we’re at, at the moment. Our lads’ egos aren’t that big, they accepted that’s where we should be, but they also accepted we’ve a real chance of doing something in it.”

And the Meath man urged the Saffron support to come out in force when they bid to seal a Croke Park semi-final date.

“I’d like to think the place [Corrigan Park] will be buzzing. There’s such a real good GAA population in Antrim, I hope everybody gets behind this.

“That’s one of the things the lads want to change - they want to give Antrim supporters something to shout about. And I think in general, even though some games haven’t gone our way, we’ve given people something to be positive about.”