Antrim hurler McAuley still has hunger for glory days
Seven Ulster championship medals would prove sufficient to sate the appetite of most players but Neal McAuley's catalogue of success to date with Antrim has merely whetted his appetite for what he describes as "bigger game."
The 26-year-old defender has been a key cog in the side and on Sunday the gritty centre-half-back hopes to prove a major stumbling block to Westmeath's hopes of advancing in the Leinster championship.
It's at Cusack Park, Mullingar that Antrim will bid to land what would only be a second win in their three years involvement in the competition but McAuley believes that the new-found spirit in the side fermented by manager Kevin Ryan could lead to a breakthrough.
"Since we made our debut in the Leinster championship we have been very keen to make an impact," insists McAuley.
"But so far we have not broken much ice. We are getting a big chance on Sunday to lay down a marker and I just hope that we can take it.
"While we are pleased to be winning Ulster titles, we have to set our sights on the bigger game. We have more belief now and that should stand to us."
Survival in Division 1A of the Allianz League courtesy of a relegation shoot-out victory over Carlow has stoked the flame of ambition in the Antrim side.
Experienced heads like McAuley, skipper Neil McManus, Aaron Graffin and Shane McNaughton are now joined by the talented Jackson McGreevy and Stephen Beatty in a side that has bought into boss Ryan's mantra that they are good enough to extend their boundaries of success beyond Ulster.
"It would be great for hurling in our county and indeed Ulster if we could make a fist of things in Leinster," reflects McAuley.
"This match on Sunday is a step-up for us."
Antrim: R McGarry; B McFall, A Graffin, M McFadden; C McKinley, N McAuley, J McGreevey; M Donnelly, T McCloskey; P Shiels, N McManus [Capt], E McCloskey; S McNaughton, C Carson, S Beatty.