Hurling and camogie

All-Ireland SHC press launch snub was a 'frustrating' misstep by the GAA says Antrim star McManus

In attendance, from left, Poc Fada 2021 Champion Colin Ryan of Limerick, Event sponsor Martin Donnelly, Antrim Camogie player Roisin McCormack and Antrim hurler Neil McManus during the launch of the M. Donnelly GAA Poc Fada All-Ireland finals launch at Croke Park 
Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
By Paul Keane

ANTRIM'S Neil McManus has claimed that the GAA had a 'poor day at the office' when they left the Saffrons and Kerry out of last month's All-Ireland SHC series launch.

The Loughmore Castleiney club in Tipperary hosted a media event with representatives of Limerick, Kilkenny, Cork, Wexford, Clare and Galway all present following the conclusion of the provincial finals.

But neither Antrim nor Kerry were represented despite both counties having All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final ties against Cork and Wexford respectively the following weekend.

Antrim manager Darren Gleeson later said that 'as far as I'm aware, we weren't invited', something that left veteran forward McManus deeply frustrated.

"The fact that neither Kerry nor Antrim players were present at the launch was very frustrating," said McManus at the launch of the M Donnelly Poc Fada competition which takes place on August 1 in Cooley.

"For somebody in my position who is very passionate about hurling and the development of it within my county, it was frustrating, but I felt sorry for Kerry as well, I must say. They've put in a huge amount of work over the last three, four, five years and it was a real snub. It was a really, really poor day at the office for the GAA that day, that's the truth."

McManus, who made his debut for Antrim way back in 2007, believes that with the county making strong progress in a number of areas, on and off the field, now is the time for the GAA to get behind them.

"I'm hoping that the GAA understand that and grab that opportunity because it won't be there forever," he said.

"Everything has kind of aligned; Antrim are starting to push on in their own right as a hurling team, Casement Park has got good news, hopefully we're going to see the first sod turned on that, and then thirdly we have the financial ability now to make that push. If the GAA row in behind that and support things like Gaelfast then I believe it can come together."

McManus praised the fundraising work of the Saffron Business Forum, revealing that 'we're now able to do the things that other counties were doing and we weren't doing'.

And he claimed that with the right investment now, Antrim could make serious strides at the top level of hurling.

"People always use the example of the investment in Dublin but when I started with Antrim, in 2007, probably from then until 2011, we were beating Wexford much more often than they were beating us," said McManus.

"Investment arrived with Davy Fitz coming in straight after Liam Dunne and things changed immediately."

McManus, who will take part in the Poc Fada competition on Annaverna Mountain in Louth, said Antrim's ambition is to be winning games regularly in the Leinster championship in the coming seasons.

"That's the next step, taking the opportunities that come," said the Cushendall man who is hopeful that Gleeson will remain as manager. "I'm assuming he will be back but I don't know for sure. I would be very hopeful that he'll be staying on."

McManus said that it is an exciting time to be a young player in Antrim and pinpointed Loughgiel's Jack McCloskey in particular, a player that has been tracked throughout the underage ranks and who starred again last weekend.

"I was at the north Antrim U17 final on Friday night and there's a young lad playing for Loughgiel called Jack McCloskey, you're going to hear an awful lot about him, don't worry," smiled McManus.

"He scored 3-14 of Loughgiel's 3-18! I haven't seen a minor like him for quite a while. I was just thinking that it would be a great time to be 17 and to be as good as Jack McCloskey is. He's going to get the opportunity to come into a really good setup in Antrim, a setup that is as good as the vast majority of teams."

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