Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Antrim have no reason to be afraid: Sean McVeigh

Out of reach: Sean McVeigh believes Antrim can push on from their impressive first half display against Donegal
Out of reach: Sean McVeigh believes Antrim can push on from their impressive first half display against Donegal

It will be a case of friendship suspended for 70-plus minutes for Antrim full-back Sean McVeigh this weekend, as the Saffrons make the journey to take on Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds (tomorrow, throw-in 2pm).

The Ballymena man spent his first couple of years as a teacher working in Colchester and during that time was a mainstay for London, playing alongside Killian Phair, who he could end up directly marking.

In restricting Michael Murphy to a single point from play in the Ulster semi-final – in spite of Antrim's second-half collapse –the 29-year-old found himself in familiar territory.

Although he may prefer to play midfield, he lined out at full-back for Liam Bradley's first league season with Antrim in 2009, before leaving just prior to the Championship.

While in London, he was Paul Coggins' choice to wear the number three jersey also.

McVeigh sums it up: "It's not my favourite position but it's a position that people put me at and I am well used to it, I am not a fish out of water."

During the week of the semi-final, Ricky and Marty Johnston's father Richard passed away, and McVeigh had been preparing for the game as a midfielder when he received an indication on the Wednesday he might be deployed as a full-back.

On Friday, he was given confirmation and watched the Derry and Donegal game again.

"I spotted Murphy, every time he gets the ball with his back to the goal he turns to his right so that was one thing I picked up the most and it gave me two days to prepare for," he revealed.

Every time Murphy did receive possession, he was immediately pressured. McVeigh had to pay him that respect.

"I class him as the best footballer of my generation," admitted the Saffrons man.

"In that respect, it feels funny saying it but I would find it easier marking somebody like that when you know you have to be 100% on your game to stay with them rather than somebody you haven't heard of."

Between two big men, it was no place for the faint of heart.

McVeigh recalls: "I suppose Michael's physicality meant I could battle with him that way. I was just happy to sacrifice my own game to keep him quiet.

"Myself and Kevin O'Boyle could hit Murphy quite hard and we knew we would get away with it because he is a big strong boy. He doesn't go down that easily."

Although they got in at half-time level on 0-7 each, their switch of pushing up on Donegal proved fatal as the 2012 All-Ireland champions revelled in the extra space.

While Murphy was getting no joy with McVeigh's marking job, he chose to open up space for others by retreating.

"Michael, while he is a very talented footballer, he is also very smart as well," he added.

"You watch the most of that second half, he just brought me out in front of the dugouts and we just stood there.

"It's very frustrating because I knew exactly what he was doing, he knew what he was doing but there was nothing I could do. He created all the space. Credit Donegal, they are very smart."

With another Ulster Championship done and dusted, Antrim now face Division Three side Limerick. But as they already showed in beating Fermanagh, they are not daunted by the difference in their respective league positions.

And after the boost of knowing they could live with Donegal, they are looking for something more from the campaign.

"The thing about the qualifiers that I find, is the first round of the qualifiers you go into, it's not about the team performance, it's about your mentality," said McVeigh.

"Usually when you go into the qualifiers first it's very close to having lost your game, so you have a mindset to get over.

"But we still would fancy our chances against Limerick down there."

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