Antrim on mission to restore battered pride: O'Boyle
Antrim skipper Kevin O'Boyle may be a Cargin club colleague of brothers Michael and Thomas McCann and Tony Scullion but he refuses to allow the recent public spat between Scullion in particular and manager Frank Dawson to deflect from preparations for the Ulster Championship quarter-final against Monaghan.
Instead, schoolteacher O'Boyle believes that there is now a completely fresh dimension to the Saffrons' build-up to a game that he admits is "absolutely vital" in terms of the team's credibility.
"While we have played out the league and are now building towards the championship it's almost as if we are going through two different seasons," points out O'Boyle.
"What happened in the league is done and dusted now and we can't do anything more about it.
"We are just totally focused on this championship game against Monaghan. There's that wee bit of championship buzz within the camp now, a lot of excitement and sense of anticipation.
"There has been enough said in the media about how our league campaign went and we have to now step on from that.
"This is an absolutely vital match in terms of our pride and credibility."
O'Boyle makes it clear that players such as Sean Kelly and Mark Sweeney who have been recalled to the squad by manager Dawson are already bringing their own impressive contribution to the table.
"We are fully focused on what we have to do and what we have to contribute to the cause," said O'Boyle.
"The truth is no one expects Antrim to achieve anything this year especially after our league campaign.
"We are going in against Monaghan under the radar especially now that they have won the Division Two title but the boys that our manager has brought back in have been in the side before and they are doing their bit to nurture morale." Monaghan have already overcome Antrim in a league showdown (3-16 to 0-13) and have shown a further step-up in form since then.
O'Boyle expressed admiration for the manner in which they accounted for Meath in the divisional final.
"They are a big target for us," he added. "They were impressive in beating Meath but maybe they might have a little complacency given our lowly position.
"Hopefully we can step it up and meet the challenge head-on."
It is understood that St Gall's ace Karl Stewart had declined an invitation from manager Dawson to join the Antrim squad but had declined this as he is currently involved with the Antrim hurlers.
But having now been saddled with a one-month suspension following his straight red card against Westmeath in the Leinster championship on Sunday, overtures could now be made to entice him back into the football fold.
Stewart's suspension means that he will miss the hurlers' important Leinster series clash with Laois on Sunday week.