Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Lack of height a pressing concern for Kevin Ryan

Wrong set-up: Kevin Ryan rued his call not to start a sweeper

Antrim manager Kevin Ryan acknowledged that the early Wexford goals on Sunday might have been prevented by deployment of a sweeper.

The Saffrons were playing their fifth game in six weeks after winning five consecutive games in the round-robin stages of the Leinster Championship, but could not stave off three early goals from the Yellowbellies that put them in the driving seat for this clash.

"Maybe we should have went for a sweeper from the start and it was too late when we did revert to that," said the Mount Sion man.

That lead gave Wexford a platform that they were never to surrender. On Sunday night, former All-Ireland-winning manager Ger Loughnane praised the physicality of Wexford on The Sunday Game, and how they manage to produce some 'Tony Doran' type hurlers, men with heft, compliment with fine touch.

Antrim, with captain Neil McManus the oldest player in the squad at only 25, are a comparatively youthful team and have been putting in plenty of strength and conditioning work, but the shortfall in size here was obvious.

"The way the game has gone, we need a few more taller men," agreed Ryan.

"It's not just the likes of 'Shorty' (Paul Shiels) because those lads have a lot of skill, but you could see the size of Wexford and the physicality they have. You have to make the best of what you have but we aren't bad either."

He promised: "There are a few lads to come into it next year and a few of the Under-21s need to serve their time.

"There are one or two bigger lads out there that will be in the panel next year if they want to commit and give 100 per cent.

"If they don't, then they aren't as good as what we already have here."

Ryan revealed that they will take a bit of a break now before their qualifier game, and release the players to their clubs.

He said: "We will let them relax for a bit because we really need to freshen up a bit now.

"There are leagues going on with clubs and all that, but we do need to freshen and focus a bit more."

Ryan also had a blast at some pundits who readily dismissed the challenge of Antrim, answering them directly.

He said: "At the end of the day, nobody gave us a hope here and people all over the country didn't give us a bit of respect. I think some of the comments were sickening but anyway, we are still content enough.

"We know what we are doing, what we are working at and what we want to do – nothing changes in that regard. It's not disheartening, just disappointing."

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