County must continue to back improving Saffrons says stalwart McManus
HE may not have had too much to say about his own future, but Antrim stalwart Neil McManus wants the county to continue to support a Saffron side that has made huge strides in recent years.
Corrigan Park was packed out on Saturday as Munster heavyweights Cork came to town, Darren Gleeson’s men going off to a huge roar at half-time as they led by a point, only for the Rebels to show their class after the break.
Having shown they are well able to compete against hurling’s big hitters in Division One of the League in the past two years, the future looks bright for the Saffrons as they bid to continue their steady improvement.
And McManus, who first came into the county fold 15 years ago, has no doubt Antrim have a team and a panel primed to push on in the years ahead.
“We’re building,” he said.
“I’m significantly older than most of the rest of the players - there’s a great group, if that can be kept together, supported financially and in terms of the support you saw inside Corrigan Park today… there’s a big base in Antrim hurling, if we can continue to compete at the top level, the fans want a team to get behind.
“The people from the Glens, from south west Antrim, from the city, they’re waiting for a team to come along and that is the team there. We just need them to bear with us because they will progress. I may not be there for that bit, but they will progress.
“They’ll learn from today and they’ll be better next year because of it.”
Whether the Cushendall man is a part of that journey going forward, however, is a conversation for another day.
“I don’t know… I don’t know,” said the 34-year-old, “I don’t want to say anything about that.”
Meanwhile, McManus and Antrim boss Darren Gleeson also had their say on the midweek photoshoot to launch the All-Ireland SHC series in the wake of Saturday’s defeat.
No representative from either Joe McDonagh Cup finalist, Antrim or Kerry, was invited to a photoshoot in Loughmore last week – apparently because they had their own photo call before the McDonagh final.
That slight did not go down well ahead of the weekends All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals.
“Is that what was said? I thought they were too separate competitions?” asked Gleeson.
“I wasn’t aware of that, we got no word of it. After last week’s Joe McDonagh Cup final, there were eight teams left in the Championship. For the dignity of both counties and what they’re trying to do push on to the next level, I think they should have been invited.
“I believe that’s a very straightforward case. This was a Liam MacCarthy preliminary quarter-final today, so take what you want out of that.”
McManus was in full agreement, adding: “My club-mate, captain of our team, Eoghan Campbell, should’ve been in that photograph along with Padraig Boyle of Kerry. That’s the long and the short of it.
“The GAA should be very embarrassed about that.”