Hurling and camogie

Joe McDonagh Cup players deserve 'greater recognition' says Antrim boss Neal Peden

Antrim boss Neal Peden believes the GAA needs to do more to promote the Joe McDonagh Cup, which gets under way for the Saffrons on Saturday. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran

ANTRIM boss Neal Peden has added his voice to the chorus calling for the Joe McDonagh Cup to be given “greater recognition” as the GAA gears up for the Championship summer.

Last year saw the introduction of the second-tier competition. However, while the standard and competitiveness of the games was widely lauded, it failed to capture the interest of a wider audience due to limited promotion and no TV coverage from the association's broadcast partners.

The fixtures for the 2019 Joe McDonagh Cup – which offers a pathway to the All-Ireland SHC for the two finalists – only came to public knowledge last month, even though the draw was made last October.

Peden's Antrim side open their campaign against Kerry in Dunloy on Saturday evening, and the Belfast man believes there is an onus on the GAA to do more to showcase the Joe McDonagh.

“I think it's a very strong competition, very worthwhile and it lets you know where you are,” said Peden.

“I do think it's badly marketed; they could go a long way in terms of promoting it and showing some of the games, if not mentioning the games, picking out the players and showing them that they care.

“These could be the players of the future and these guys want a bit of publicity and for people to recognise who they are because they work just as hard as any other county team.

“The same goes for Westmeath, Kerry, whoever - we all work as hard as anybody and we all have aspirations to do well. We need recognition from the higher authorities, and the way we can do that is by showing the matches, giving them time and giving the competition the publicity it deserves, which it generally isn't.

“There shouldn't be excuses any more because, even if it's not a television set up, they can do it another way whether it's streaming or live radio coverage – there's lots of ways you can do it.

“Somebody needs to step up and say ‘you know what, we need to promote all our games, it doesn't matter where they are'. The players deserve greater recognition.”

Peden, who will be without former captain Simon McCrory after the St John's man opted off the Antrim panel, has experience of the Joe McDonagh Cup having been involved with the county management team last year.

And the Saffrons boss believes it is the perfect platform for his young side to find out exactly where they stand on the national scene.

“Teams playing in the Joe McDonagh have great aspirations to move forward, they're all striving to get to that next level.

“Everybody knows they can only drive on from that, as Carlow have proved, getting in there and playing those quality games that have made them so much stronger.

Antrim are in the second grade but we have got to move forward in the Joe McDonagh first, and then we can start to look at the next stage. Last year we lost a couple of key games, and if we'd won those, who knows?

“You have to build a team that's going to compete well, maybe get to that final and show they're ready for the next stage.”

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