Antrim minor boss frustrated the county's young hurlers won't get to play in front of home crowd
ANTRIM minor manager Alan Rainey is a little peeved that his team has not had the opportunity to play in front of home supporters as they enter their sixth game in the Leinster Minor Hurling Championship.
The minors have topped their group in the tiered title race and had already qualified for the knock-out stages with wins over Carlow, Westmeath, Derry and Meath before their final group game with Down in Portaferry last Saturday. Leading by six points going into the last five minutes the Saffrons conceded a goal that opened a gap for Down to sneak through to earn a draw.
They will take on Kildare in Dundalk on Saturday (throw-in 12pm) in the knock-out stage
“Look, we went into the Leinster championship to get more games at a competitive level for our team. When you go into a different province, you expect to have to do a bit of travelling," he said.
“We are now entering the knock-out stages and still haven't got a home game. Everyone else has, Down, Derry, them all. Westmeath, who finished runners up in our group, will be at home to Laois on Saturday, while the best we have got is a half-way venue in Dundalk.”
The Davitt's clubman is most frustrated that Antrim supporters have not had the opportunity to see the progress the minors have made.
“We have had the parents and friends supporting the boys wherever the game was. If we were playing in Corrigan Park, you would get a lot more people coming along and showing their appreciation for the effort the boys are putting in.
“We can see the progress since our first challenge game in January. When the group games started, I felt that we were very nervous against Carlow. But we still won by five or six points and we have stepped up in every game since.
“I wasn't too disappointed last Saturday, only that we let a lead slip with just a few minutes to go.
“Our aim with this group has been to develop them and show them the commitment that is expected at inter-county level. We want to prepare them for the next level, the U20s. Then down along the line we hope that the majority of them will make it through to senior inter-county.
“There is a clear pathway there and Darren Gleeson (senior manager) and Paudie Shivers (U20s manager) are constantly in touch and very supportive of what we are doing with the minors.
“The backroom team has been superb. Some of them have been there since U14 level, others like Claire Murtagh and Gareth Bellew have come on board this year and added an extra dimension.
“All 27 or 28 boys on the panel have already played in the Leinster championship and have gained a lot of experience and I would just like Saffron supporters to see how far they have come along.”
Turning to the Kildare game on Saturday, Rainey is hoping that the result of an early season challenge game can be repeated.
“We went down to Hawkfield in January and beat them by four points, I think. That was very early on in the season. I am sure that they have done a lot of work in the interim. But so have we.
“We had a really good afternoon session on Easter Monday in Dunsilly and I would be hopeful that we could bring the experience we have gained to date into this game.
“It is a step up from the games we have played in the group, but it is a step that we can take.”