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St Gall's stick by tried and trusted at start of another title defence

By Declan Bogue

Chris Kerr waited many years for Ronan Gallagher to retire from the St Gall's number one jersey, but only two years after he made way for Kerr to become the club custodian, the Fermanagh man has returned.

Only this time Kerr welcomes him as a selector. "Just as long as he doesn't attempt to take the jersey off me I don't mind!" he jokes.

They begin their Antrim Championship defence tonight against Ahoghill, in Corrigan Park (throw-in 6.30pm).

As ever, St Gall's do not underestimate a side that are comfortably mid-table in the Antrim league, one of the secrets to winning 12 of the last 13 county titles.

"We would take each game as it comes and we will throw everything we have into that particular game on Saturday night," said Kerr.

"Then, if we are lucky enough to get past that, it is three weeks until the next game and we will do the same again.

"That's what we have been doing down through the years and it has stood us in good stead."

Earlier this year, Kerr and county colleague Michael Pollock left the Antrim squad after another St Gall's man – CJ McGourty – was ejected from the panel by manager Liam Bradley.

Antrim's loss was certainly St Gall's gain as the quality and numbers of their training sessions benefitted from having three county standard players present.

Kerr, a fitness instructor with Flex Fitness in Ardoyne alongside free-scoring Saffrons forward Brian 'Bam' Neeson, explains: "I love playing for Antrim and so do the other lads, but to have us all together, the whole team, it's definitely a plus.

"Then you don't miss matches or training sessions because of having to be rested. I want to play every game with St Gall's and I don't want to miss games with being out three or four nights of the week."

His line of work helps with that kind of consistency. Every day, Kerr will take advantage of his workplace surroundings, even if it is to have a deep stretching session to keep him supple.

Some of the younger St Gall's players will lean on his expertise and experience and he is responsible for some of the leaner and meaner bodies of a growing number of clubmen.

Carl McCabe and Christopher 'Tiffy' Quinn are back for their third year in charge and will have them ready for the Championship but, as Kerr explains, their success is self-perpetuating.

"Carl and Tiffy are top-class in terms of their training and their management.

"It is hard for a dual club to go at it, in both Championships, and our hurlers were in Division One this year as well so it has been hard to balance both as well.

"But it comes from the players as well. Every time we put on that blue and white jersey it means an awful lot to people within St Gall's who have worn it before.

"We know the pressure that goes with it."

"We have younger lads coming through, the likes of Niall O'Neill and Conor Burke and Ruairi Wilson who will keep the boys who have been there on their toes.

"It's good to have good competition in training, it can only benefit the team in the long run."

Belfast Telegraph

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