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Antrim's dual club players a worry for Fitzsimons

 

By John Campbell

The notion that there is no longer any room for dual players on the club front in particular has been robustly rubbished by Antrim joint football boss Frank Fitzsimons.

As his squad continue preparations for their daunting assignment against Donegal in the Ulster Senior Championship next month, Fitzsimons believes that players will continue to exercise their right to choose the code or codes which they want to play and managers will have to go along with this.

Not only is Fitzsimons hoping that key forward Ryan Murray might recover in time from a shoulder injury for the trip to Ballybofey, but he points to the fact that players such as Deaghlan Lynch, Donal Nugent, Brendan Bradley and Stephen Beatty (right) continue to serve their clubs in both hurling and football.

With Brendan Rogers and Chrissy McKaigue having confirmed that they will participate in both codes with Derry, the spotlight has certainly switched once again to the role of the dual player.

Fitzsimons saw his side slip back into Division Four following their league campaign but is resigned to the fact that he faces an anxious wait over the course of the next few weeks to see if players will come through club games safely in both codes.

"When you look at Ryan Murray's injury, and then you see that his brother Conor was handed a two-game suspension from the game against Armagh in the league, you can see we have something to worry about," points out Fitzsimons.

"But then you have to take into account that we have boys in our squad who are serving their clubs in two codes and that will cause us concern between now and the Ulster Championship match against this strong Donegal side.

"Whether players are participating at club level or county in two codes is largely irrelevant, the fact of the matter is that they are playing more games and perhaps run a higher risk of injury."

"However, this is something that we have to live with. The players make their choices and we have to respect that. I know that these boys definitely still want to play football for Antrim and that's the main thing."

Even though his men face a difficult task against Rory Gallagher's rejuvenated side, Fitzsimons is prepared to dwell on the positives as he plots his strategy for MacCumhaill Park.

"The way that Stephen Beatty has been playing for us at midfield has been superb while we now have two fine half-backs in Paddy McAleer and Paddy McBride and C J McGourty is certainly continuing to do the business for us in attack," Fitzsimons continued.

Beatty missed out on Antrim's last League outing against Longford and Fitzsimons believes that this was a contributory factor to his team's downfall on the day.

"This is his first year in senior inter-county football and he is big and strong," maintains Fitzsimons.

"Had he been in there at midfield against Longford I think we would have won that match and maybe stayed up."

Along with his managerial partner Gearoid Adams, Fitzsimons is leaving nothing to chance in advance of the meeting with Donegal.

"We watched them when they played against Monaghan in the league recently and they were impressive, even though they only drew the game," states Fitzsimons.

"They are firing on all cylinders at both senior and Under-21 level and you can't ask for better than that."

Belfast Telegraph

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