Niall McKeever will return from Australia shortly – but sadly from the perspective of Antrim fans it will only be for a short holiday.
The strapping Portglenone clubman played a key role in taking the Saffrons into the Ulster senior football championship final last year but almost immediately afterwards he joined up with the Richmond Tigers club to pursue his Rules career.
And having bulked up considerably, McKeever is now ready to challenge for a regular place in the side.
“Obviously we would love to have Niall back home here on a full-time basis but you can’t blame him for wanting to pursue his professional career. He did a great job for us at midfield and I suppose it was inevitable that he would move on,” says Antrim liaison officer Tony McCollum.
But while Antrim manager still harbours regrets that McKeever has departed from his fold, he is rather more fortunate in one respect than many other county bosses.
Emigration is biting into many county panels just now with players heading off to England and America in search of employment but in contrast, several Antrim players have managed to secure jobs here.
Justin Crozier is now a pharmacist in Toome while Kevin Niblock is on the staff of St Malachy’s College in Belfast. Kevin O’Boyle has joined Peter Canavan on the staff at Holy Trinity College Cookstown and both C J McGourty and Terry O’Neill are teaching in La Salle School on the Falls Road where the former is engaged in his placement year.
“It’s certainly encouraging to see these players living and working in Belfast for the most part. It will certainly help Liam Bradley in fashioning his team for next year,” says McCollum.
Sean McGreevey, John Finucane and Sean Kelly are out of the Saffrons’ squad and Bradley has intimated that the door will remain open to fresh talent, especially in the Dr McKenna Cup.