Hurling and camogie

Outgoing management team leave Antrim camogie in good health

REPRO FREE***PRESS RELEASE NO REPRODUCTION FEE*** EDITORIAL USE ONLY Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 2 Final, Owenbeg GAA Centre of Excellence, Dungiven, Northern Ireland 19/6/2021 Antrim vs Down Antrim manager Paul McKillen Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne
BY SEAMAS McALEENAN

Outgoing Antrim camogie manager Paul McKillen believes he and Jim McKernan have left the county in good health after stepping following a successful two-year spell.

McKillen announced he was vacating the role towards the end of last week while McKernan confirmed his departure on Sunday.

Having guided the county to a return to senior championship after their All-Ireland intermediate final win over Kilkenny, having lost to the Down in the 2020 decider, McKillen feels that the talent exists within the county to build on that success.

“Antrim are a senior camogie county. That is where they belong and that is where we are now.

“The performance they gave in Croke Park, the semi-final against Galway in Clones. Those were games where you saw the real potential and this team is very young, many of them are around the early 20s.

“You have good underage players coming through as well and the standard in club camogie in the county is very high. Already there are foundations there for the next ten years – probably a lot more potential in this team than in Down who have already made a big impact at senior level.

“This year’s players are getting out into the schools over the past month. They are great ambassadors for camogie and I think you will see a lot more youngsters taking up the game and coming through at underage level over the next decade or two as a result.

“In the immediate future, I would love to see these girls pick up awards for their performances this year. They deserve it and it was a pleasure working with them.”

McKillen also coached the Portglenone club team this season and sees the pros and cons from both sides. Portglenone went out of the Antrim Intermediate championship on Saturday and McKillen departed after the game for a short break in the west of Ireland leaving co-manager Jim McKernan to take the plaudits with the team in Corrigan Park at half-time during the Antrim hurling final on Sunday.

Jim McKernan confirmed on Sunday that he will leave with McKillen. The Belfast man said that McKillen had phoned him up last January, told him they had a new project and within five minutes they were setting out their plans. He has also said that the pair came as a package and would be leaving as one.

“We also had really good support from [Antrim camogie chairman] Vincent Boyle and the county board throughout. Anything we asked for, we were never really refused and I want to thank them for the support that they gave us.

“When Vincent first approached me, I told him to go away and get someone else. But he was persistent and came back a couple of times before I agreed to sit down and see what the County Board wanted.

“They talked about an All-Ireland, winning back Ulster and doing well in the league, that the talent was there. At that point I hadn’t got a management team together.

“But I had been in with Jim on a few occasions and we get on well together. I phoned him and he came on board immediately. I worked a bit more with Elaine and asked her a couple of times before she came in."

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Hurling and camogie