Antrim good enough to win Ulster title, predicts McCann
Ahead of their season opener on Sunday against University of Ulster Jordanstown at Casement Park, Antrim's Michael McCann has urged his team mates to dream big this year under new manager Frank Dawson — with an Ulster title the target.
While, under previous Saffrons boss Liam Bradley, McCann matured into one of the finest midfielders in the game, he has described the ‘bounce' effect of gaining a new managerial team.
“It’s a fresh start,” the Cargin clubman commented.
“Liam was there for four years and that is a long time. He did well. A new start is always good and everyone is looking forward to it.
“A new voice is never a bad thing but I wouldn’t necessarily say it was needed.
“I still think that we were making strides. We made two promotions in a row and lost out in the championship to Kildare and Tyrone as well as Kerry,” he said.
“We went to Division Two and we lost a lot of men to injuries and, with people in and out, it was a bad year and we started to build again.”
After Antrim face the Jordanstown students, they have a week in which to prepare for the visit of Tyrone, before they conclude the group stages with a midweek game away to Derry.
It's certainly a demanding programme, but one perfectly balanced to gear Antrim for a year in Division Three of the National League.
It will resemble a bearpit, with familiar foes Sligo to tackle once again, along with an Ulster-heavy representation of Monaghan, Cavan and Fermanagh, not to mention relegated Meath, Roscommon and a promoted Wicklow side.
Drawn to face Monaghan in the first round of the Ulster Championship, Antrim know that they will have similar preparation to the Farney County.
Losing narrowly to them last summer at the same stage of the competition is scant comfort, but McCann feels there is an opportunity to press ahead and target the Anglo-Celt trophy.
“It is achievable,” he boldly predicted.
“We play Monaghan this year and we nearly scalped them in Clones, Down just pipped them and Donegal beat Down,” he explained.
“On your day, anyone can win any game, you have to train hard and work hard, every team needs to know not only what they are doing but why they are doing it,” he adds.
“Donegal have proven that and if you can get that nailed down, who knows.”
At 27, and poised to open a new venture — METX Fitness — along with his brother Tomás, McCann knows time could be running out for him in an Antrim jersey.
“The problem is that before you could have played football into your 30s, but now with the commitment and the level of training that you are doing, I would say that if you make it into the early 30s, anything beyond that and you are doing well,” commented McCann.
On Sunday he will be a seasoned veteran, facing into another year, still fighting to raise the bar higher for the Saffrons.