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McGettigan's award proves a timely boost for Antrim

 

By John Campbell

Antrim may be going through a turbulent period at senior level, but the county's minor footballers have already lit a torch for the future through their superb victory over Donegal in the quarter-final of the Ulster Championship.

The Saffrons have laboured in the shadows at this level for some years, but suddenly fresh hope has been spawned and the team's preparations for the forthcoming provincial semi-final against Derry have been boosted now that manager Hugh McGettigan has become the latest recipient of the Ulster GAA Writers' Association monthly merit award.

McGettigan's tactical awareness and clever deployment of substitutes proved crucial in fashioning the shock win over Donegal, and not surprisingly he is hoping for a repetition against Derry.

But he is aware that this will be a much greater challenge as the Minor Championship hots up.

"We went in as underdogs against Donegal, last year's Ulster winners, but the lads buckled down to the task and turned in a fabulous display. It was a magical moment when Tiernan McAteer sent over the winning point in extra-time," reflected McGettigan.

"But Derry are favourites for the Ulster title so we will be underdogs again, although that won't worry us too much. Winning this award gives us all a big lift as we focus on the semi-final."

In tandem with Brian Gribben, McGettigan has been painstakingly honing under-age talent in Antrim over recent years to the extent that the county now boasts an exciting minor side playing fast, direct football.

"There is real heart and conviction in this Antrim side and they have shown they can keep going no matter what the odds are. We are looking forward to meeting Derry because we want to challenge ourselves again," added McGettigan.

To earn his award, he had to fight off strong claims from Armagh player Caroline O'Hanlon, who starred for Ulster in their ladies' football inter-provincial triumph. The Ulster camogie side were also in the mix having tasted success in their inter-pro series.

McGettigan received his award at a ceremony in St Mary's CBS, Belfast and the presentation was made by Quinn Building Products Sales & Marketing Director Seamus McMahon.

The Antrim minor boss took delivery of an engraved Belleek Living Vase, hand crafted silver cufflinks from Carlingford Design House and training gear from O'Neill International Sportswear plus two tickets to the next UGAAWA annual presentation function.

McGettigan's success has not only provided a fillip for the Antrim minor side but it has also given the senior side a lift as they prepare to face Sligo in the All-Ireland qualifiers on Saturday week.

Antrim lost heavily to Donegal in their Ulster Championship quarter-final and will go to Markievicz Park seeking redemption given that their hasty exit came on the heels of relegation to Division Four.

County board spokesman Sean Kelly maintains that Antrim are looking to the positives.

He said: "The fact that the minors did well against Donegal, and the belief we have that the senior team are capable of showing better form than they did against Donegal, gives us encouragement. We would ask our fans to now get behind both teams."

Belfast Telegraph

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