Hurling and camogie

Paul McKillen and Jim McKernan team up to lead Antrim camogie

Sarsfield's Jim McKernan 
Séamas McAleenan

THE management team that delivered Antrim hurlers the 2006 Christy Ring Cup, an Ulster title and retained Division One status in the National Hurling league has taken over the county camogie team for the 2020 season.

Ballycastle’s Paul McKillen and Sarsfield’s Jim McKernan were with the hurlers just one season a decade and a half ago, and since then separately they have been involved with a number of club teams in both hurling and camogie.

McKillen took the Ballycastle club to three All-Ireland Féile na nGael camogie finals around the same time he was with the county hurlers, winning national Division 3 and then Division 2 titles in successive years, before getting involved with Cross and Passion College, Ballycastle (CPC), where he was working as caretaker.

CPC went on to win the All-Ireland Junior (under 16) A title in 2008 with many of the club players who had enjoyed club success with him.

In a separate development another former Antrim hurler, Ciaran Cunningham, has been appointed Derry senior camogie manager for 2020.

Antrim joint-boss McKillen has spent the past two years with Rasharkin hurlers and wasn’t intending to get involved with any teams in 2020.

“To be honest, I was just looking forward to a break, but I was approached by the county camogie Chairman (Vincent Boyle) and here we are,” he said yesterday.

“There has been so much talent passed through under age ranks in Antrim over the past 10 years, especially in the last two or three. But there has been a problem bringing that talent through to senior inter-county level.

“I suppose that is the challenge for us now, but I go to a lot of club and school camogie games and the talent is unreal at the moment and that has to translate into success at inter-county level.”

McKillen and McKernan had their first meeting with players on Wednesday evening and the Ballycastle former All-star hurler was encouraged by the response: “Look it was a meeting called at short notice and we didn’t expect a huge number to attend. A number sent messages and we have arranged our first session for 12 noon on Sunday in Dunsilly.

“It is open to anyone to attend and we are particularly looking at players in their mid-20s who can provide experience. As I said already the younger talent is excellent and we need experienced heads to take them through.”

With “Humpy” having been involved with Rasharkin hurlers in the recent past and “Jingo” taking hurling teams within dual clubs, the new management was keen to emphasise that they would be open to accommodate the programmes of dual players who wanted to play county camogie.

“We are saying to everyone to come along. If you are a dual player at club level, talk to us and between players and management we will take a look at what might work. We want the best for Antrim camogie.”

With the first round of National League fixtures on the opening weekend of February, the new management team has just a fortnight to get ready.

“In that respect we are maybe a couple of months behind other counties. But we already know a lot of the players, I have watched a lot of club camogie. So we are not starting from base level.

“It will take a while to build a team however and the National league games will help us in that. Putting a team together for the Ulster and All-Ireland championship in the summer is the main priority and the talent is definitely there in the county.”

In a separate development another former Antrim hurler, Ciaran Cunningham, has been appointed Derry senior camogie manager for 2020.

The former St John’s, Belfast and Saffron net-minder had his first training session with the team during the week.

As with the previous management, the new man will have to plan without the Slaughtneil contingent who are preparing for next week-end’s All-Ireland club semi-final with Clare side Scariff/Ogonnelloe in Ashbourne.

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Hurling and camogie