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Antrim rocked as PJ O'Mullan quits as hurling boss

By Declan Bogue

Published 02/04/2016

Stepping down: Antrim hurling manager PJ O'Mullan has cited personal circumstances as his reason for quitting the role
Stepping down: Antrim hurling manager PJ O'Mullan has cited personal circumstances as his reason for quitting the role
Liam Watson was let go from the Antrim county hurling panel

A layer of mystery surrounds the departure of PJ O'Mullan as Antrim hurling manager, given his comments to The Belfast Telegraph on Thursday.

Speaking on the decision to let Liam Watson go from the county hurling panel, O'Mullan said: "Going forward into the Christy Ring after the league campaign, everybody's commitment levels have to be at 100% to try and salvage something from the season.

"We can only take people at the minute who are 100% committed and unfortunately for Liam he can't do that. That's why he is not involved."

Sounding like a man who was planning ahead for the April 23rd Christy Ring clash against Kildare, O'Mullan added: "The up-side of it is that the Cushendall boys are back, they come into training next week.

"We have asked seven of them to come in; Ryan McCambridge, Conor Carson, Eoghan Campbell, Paddy Burke, Aidan McNaughton, David Kearney and Sean McAfee.

"That's the seven we have asked to come in and we would be hoping that at least six of them can commit.

"That will freshen up the squad and we hope to make a few more additions as well."

When contacted yesterday, a number of senior hurlers on the county team declined to make comment on the issue, admitting that they had no prior knowledge of the development.

Antrim will move forward without Liam Watson  

O'Mullan had only been three-and-a-half months into the job, but was increasingly downhearted by a number of factors as the Saffrons produced a series of poor performances in Division 2A, losing to Carlow, Westmeath and London.

On Friday the Antrim county board met O'Mullan for a review of the league campaign, and afterwards released a statement, which said: "At a meeting earlier today in the offices of Antrim GAA the current senior hurling manager, PJ O'Mullan, has decided to step down from his post due to personal circumstances.

"PJ would like to thank the back room team and the county board for their support and assistance during his time in charge.

"The county board would like to thank PJ and his back room team for their efforts and wish PJ the best of luck for the future.

"Antrim GAA will meet to consider its options regarding the management of the team for the upcoming Christy Ring campaign."

The statement was signed by Frankie Quinn, secretary of the Antrim county board. O'Mullan did admit to some frustrations in the job, saying on Thursday: "The bottom line is you give everybody a chance, you treat them like adults and you expect the same back.

"You find over the course of a couple of months that you think there are people doing the work and they aren't.

"At this level, you can't afford to carry them regardless of who they are, you are better having 25 players who are immersed in Antrim hurling for six or seven months."

Asked if he would have sympathy for other managers that have complained about a lack of commitment to county hurling in Antrim, he answered: "The apathy in Antrim hurling is relentless.

"It seems to be gathering momentum, the apathy. Until everybody gets together and turns that around, it is very hard. Players have to do the business in training and on the pitch.

"I think given a couple of years that the whole thing can be turned around.

"It won't happen overnight. It's not a three-and-a-half month project anyway."

All eyes will now turn to his successor.

Selector Justin McCarthy would be a contender, and has a history going back five decades with the county.

However, as it is thought he is only involved because of O'Mullan, this might seem unlikely.

Ollie Bellew, manager of St Gall's when they reached the 2014 county final, is not believed to be tied to a team and may take it on as a short-term deal, while loyal servant Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton might also come into the reckoning, as will Dunloy's Gregory O'Kane.

Belfast Telegraph

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