Critics round on Antrim footballers and hurlers after bleak weekend

Antrim's promotion hopes hang by a thread after losing to Carlow last weekend Picture by Cliff Donaldson.
Antrim's promotion hopes hang by a thread after losing to Carlow last weekend Picture by Cliff Donaldson.

IT was a weekend to forget for Antrim GAA. The senior hurlers lost their Division 1B relegation encounter with Laois and promotion out of Division Four looks unlikely for the footballers.

After a bright start to their League campaign that saw them suffer narrow losses to All-Ireland champions Galway and Dublin, Antrim found themselves in a relegation play-off in Dunloy last weekend.

The footballers mustered just six points from open play in their three-point loss to Carlow at Corrigan Park on Sunday while their home draw with Wicklow a few weeks ago took the wind out of their sails.

‘ANTRIM Gael’ criticised the mentality of the Antrim players in both codes.

“You have to hand it to the Antrim senior hurlers and footballers,” writes ‘Antrim Gael’ with more than a fair dose of sarcasm, “At least they are consistent in letting everyone down.

“Once again we seen both completely bottle it in games that matter. Faced with decent, but not brilliant, teams in Carlow and Laois - at home - Antrim senior county sides proceeded to melt and fade away with a whimper.

“This continual level of mediocrity is unacceptable but the fact is that physically and mentally, Antrim players at senior inter-county level in both codes are not good enough, not fit enough and not mentally tough enough…

“Some fellas in Antrim think that once you are selected for the county that's enough; they then proceed to swan about with over-inflated egos.

“I don't think I am being over harsh or unfair here because nothing seems to change. Many current players simply need to take the blame for that.”

RESPONSE: I have interviewed many of the current players in both senior panels and I haven’t detected ‘over-inflated egos’. Of course it’s disappointing for the footballers to potentially miss out on promotion but your language is over the top.

To suggest these boys are “swanning about” is insulting to the mountains of work that they put in.

Apart from a brief foray into Division Two – under Liam ‘Baker’ Bradley - Antrim yo-yo between Division Three and Four. That’s where Antrim football is at.

In terms of investment, everyone knows Antrim lag behind, particularly in Belfast. Perhaps the extra funds promised by Croke Park will help here.

As far as Division Four goes, Carlow are the best team in the division. It’s a toss up between Laois and Antrim as the second best team – and that’s how Division Four has panned out to date.

For Antrim to survive in the NHL Division 1B they needed more quality players to commit to the cause. They didn’t get that and were forced to go with a clutch of rookie players who probably got more game-time as a result.

While the performance graphs of these new players have been very encouraging, it was always going to be a tough ask to stay in 1B. I agree, however, Laois at home was a missed opportunity.

Right now, the Antrim hurlers are a Division Two team flirting with the bottom rung of Division 1B.

ANOTHER Antrim supporter - ‘Frustrated and Angry Antrim GAA Fan’ – was a little more philosophical about Antrim’s disastrous weekend, and is certainly not a fan of playing both hurling and football on the same weekends.

“I’m frustrated that the hurling team are relegated after one season back in the top division,” emailed ‘Frustrated and Angry Antrim GAA Fan’.

“I am not frustrated at the players or management but the system which will do nothing to help those teams who come up from Division Two to develop as a team.

“In reality, Antrim were very close to playing in the quarter-finals of the National League and now find themselves relegated and this will do nothing to develop young players."

They add: “I’m angry at the GAA as a dual season ticket-holder with Antrim in hurling and football, who lives in Dublin and who now due to the restructuring of the competitions by Croke Park, has to make a choice as to which county team I support, whereas in the past the games were on alternate weekends.

“I’m angry that I had to choose last weekend as to which team I had to support in two vital games for the county when it could have been easily arranged that the times of the games would have permitted fans to go to both games as both travelling teams were on bank holidays on the Monday and maybe this support might have taken the teams across the line.”

RESPONSE: The fact that Antrim GAA can’t host double headers because of a lack of facilities is hugely disappointing. Why they closed Casement Park in 2013 remains mind-boggling.

AND, finally, forgive an inter-county footballer for expressing an opinion. Lord knows, there are enough anodyne player interviews doing the rounds these days. So forgive Off The Fence for defending Brendan Donaghy’s right to say that he’s against a two-tiered Championship system.

In Monday’s edition, the Armagh defender was firmly against the new GAA President John Horan’s idea of wanting to split the Championship before his three-year tenure finishes.

An ‘Anonymous Caller’ said: “I’ve just read Monday’s back page where Brendan Donaghy says: ‘Second tier idea turns my stomach’. I think it’s a bit rich for somebody to come out with comments like that.

“Where does Donaghy ply his trade in Armagh? He plies his trade in the intermediate league in Armagh. Does it turn his stomach to play intermediate football in Armagh?

“For junior footballers: does it turn their stomach? I think it’s insulting to junior and intermediate footballers.

“If somebody wants to play at the top level then they have to earn the right to play at the top level.”

RESPONSE: The fear of splitting the Championship into two is that the ‘B’ Championship – and it is a ‘B’ Championship no matter how you dress it up – will become an after-thought of the GAA.

TV companies will run a mile from these games and then the de-investment process in these counties would kick in. Development squads lose any lingering prestige, and before you know it you’ve administered the last rites to half the country on the inter-county stage.

That scenario would never come to pass at club level.