Hurling and camogie

Injuries will dictate my Antrim future: hurler Simon McCrory

Simon McCrory has not ruled out resuming his Antrim hurling career under Darren Gleeson

ANTRIM senior hurler Simon McCrory has yet to decide on whether to return to the inter-county set-up in 2021 after rejoining the panel late last year.

Towards the end of 2020, Darren Gleeson’s men achieved their twin aims of winning promotion to top flight hurling and claiming the Joe McDonagh Cup for the first time in Antrim’s history.

Regarded as one of the best defenders in the county over the last decade, McCrory had decided to step away from the demands of inter-county hurling at the start of the year – but had a rethink as the first lockdown came to a close.

“The year that was in it was a mad one because at the start of the year I decided to step away and at the time it was the right decision,” the St John’s man explained.

“Then Covid happened. We were locked down. I was on furlough, so I was off work and had an awful lot of time on my hands and I decided to get back at it.”

McCrory’s biggest problem was trying to break into the starting team that was a very settled one under Gleeson. After they defeated Kerry in an NHL promotion play-off in mid-October, the Antrim hurlers embarked on an incredible run that saw them defeat the same opponents in the McDonagh final at Croke Park in mid-December.

“It was good to be back involved. It was obviously a great year for the lads and it was testament to how strong the panel was. It was virtually impossible to get into the team and that shows you how competitive it was. There were players who were not making the 26, top quality players. We were all pushing each other.

“It was maybe the first time in a while we had a full panel pushing each other.”

At last Friday’s Irish News Ulster Allstar awards, the entire team was made up of Antrim men.

“It was frustrating but I’ve no gripes, the lads were playing so well. Anybody who is on the sideline, you’re competitive by nature and you’re not going to be happy to be on the bench. But I’m just so happy that we are back at the top level. We don’t know what lies ahead this year.”

Injuries may dictate McCrory’s decision as he’s been plagued by an Achilles injury. But if he’s injury-free, at 32, he still feels good enough to push for one of the defensive berths on the team.

“I would go for it if I could get these injuries to clear up and keep on top of my fitness, I don’t see any reason why not. I probably just came back to the panel a bit late.”

At club level, McCrory is getting used to championship heartbreak. After losing back-to-back semi-final games to Cushendall in recent seasons, the Johnnies were denied a final place in the 2020 senior final by Loughgiel in an incredible clash at Dunsilly in September.

“It was probably the best Antrim Championship we’ve had in a long time because it was so competitive,” he said.

“From a St John’s point of view, it was so disappointing. We’ve lost a lot of tight semi-finals now and we felt we were in a good position and we had the experience of being in tight games.

“Maybe this was the one we were going to step up, but Loughgiel, no matter how poorly they’re playing, they don’t know when they’re beaten. It’s the same with Cushendall. We’re dying to get back at it this year to see how we do.”

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Hurling and camogie