Sean McGreevy has been part and parcel of the Antrim football squad for the past 18 years — and the 36-year-old veteran custodian has won more honours in the past three years than he has in the previous 15.
The St Paul’s clubman made his debut as a nervous 18-year-old and in the intervening years he has produced consistently high performances between the posts, often preventing mediocre Antrim sides from suffering potentially embarrassing defeats because of his alertness and agility.
But now that Antrim have shed their Cinderella image, no one is keener than the articulate McGreevy to see the team climb to championship eminence starting with victory over Kildare in tonight’s All Ireland Football Championship first round Qualifier replay at Casement Park.
“We won the Tommy Murphy Cup three years ago and since then we have gained promotion in successive seasons meaning that we will be playing our football in Division Two next year.
“That’s a big step-up for Antrim but we are conscious at the same time that while we got to the Ulster Final last year we are still trying to prove ourselves as a championship force.
“Having drawn with Kildare last week we now have the chance to get past them tonight and set up a meeting with Leitrim in round two and that’s something that we would really like to see happen,” enthuses McGreevy.
It was his clever kick-outs that quite often proved the launch-pad for assaults by the Saffrons on the Kildare rearguard in the drawn game and the agile McGreevy, who will be playing back-to-back games for his county for the first time this year, accepts that there is a lot of pressure on Liam Bradley’s side tonight.
“We have home advantage and we have gained in experience. We have to turn it on if we want to go anywhere,” insists McGreevy.
With C J McGourty unavailable but Michael Magill returning to the substitutes’ bench, Antrim parade the side that showed skill and character in Newbridge but
this time round they know that unchanged Kildare are unlikely to shoot as many wides.
“They missed a lot of chances but they may be more accurate tonight. We have to prove that we can take our chances when they come,” says McGreevy.
Manager Bradley, still concerned that some of his players and members of his management team were on the receiving end of a bout of verbal abuse by supporters in the drawn game, believes that his team can answer this in the best possible manner by winning the game.
“We want to let our football do the talking for us. What happened last weekend is history.
“Now we just wish to roll up our sleeves and apply ourselves to the task in hand.
“I feel there is enough experience and skill in this Antrim side to win,” states Bradley.
John Doyle, Eamon Callaghan, Ronan Sweeney and James Kavanagh will form a big threat in the Kildare attack and visitors’ manager Kieran McGeeney has urged his side to shake off the inhibitions which they showed last weekend.
“Given all the circumstances surrounding last Saturday’s match following the death of Dermot Earley I thought my players showed a lot of character.
“Now they will be expected to display even greater composure and accuracy tonight” states McGeeney.
ANTRIM: S McGreevy: A Healy, C Brady, J Crozier; J Loughrey, T Scullion, K O’Boyle; B Herron, M McCann; A Gallagher, T McCann, K McGourty; K Niblock, P Cunningham, K Brady.
KILDARE: S McCormack; P Kelly, H McGrillen, A MacLochlainn; M O’Flaherty, E Bolton, B Flanagan; D Flynn, D Earley; H Lynch, E Callaghan, J Kavanagh; P O’Neill, J Doyle, R Sweeney.