Justin Crozier played an important role when Antrim won promotion to Division Three of the National Football League last year prior to reaching the Ulster senior championship final in which they were edged out by Tyrone and then giving eventual All Ireland champions Kerry a rare fright in the All Ireland qualifiers.
Crozier’s strength, skill and versatility were qualities that Saffrons boss Liam Bradley deployed to the full as his team left an indelible imprint on the 2009 landscape.
And while the strapping Crozier relishes the prospect trying to bring Antrim further along the glory route this year, he is currently focussed on two short-term goals away from the county squad.
As skipper of Queen’s University, Crozier is particularly anxious that the side should make an impact in the Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup and immediately afterwards he hopes to stoke the students’ fire for their attractive all-Belfast Sigerson Cup clash with University of Ulster Jordanstown early next month.
“I enjoyed being part of the Antrim set-up last year but at this point in time I am concentrating on trying to do my best for Queen’s.
“It’s always a big challenge for the university sides to be in the McKenna Cup but we are ready for it,” states 22-year-old Pharmacy student Crozier.
Queen’s have been bracketed with Antrim, Derry and Down in Group C meaning they will face demanding games which should prove ideal preparation for their Sigerson campaign.
Last year Queen’s reached the McKenna Cup final only to lose out to Donegal at Healy Park, Omagh.
While the squad might not appear to be quite as strong this time round, Crozier and manager Cathal O’Rourke believe that their blend of fitness, pace and skill will stand them in good stead.
“Teams will be anxious to get off the mark early and that’s understandable.
“We have a mix of players some of whom have a bit of county experience and some who have been doing very well at Under 21 level. The next few weeks will be challenging,” maintains O’Rourke.
Crozier, of course, expects to return to the Antrim squad for the National League. It was as an imposing centre-half-back that he made his mark in the county colours throughout 2009, his consistency earning him fulsome plaudits.
But he is taking nothing for granted as he ponders the season ahead during which Antrim will face a series of testing games in Division Three before taking on reigning champions Tyrone in the first round of the Ulster Championship.
And he will also be keen to see his club Cargin halt the domi
nance of St Gall’s in the Antrim championship.
The west Belfast side have lorded matters within the county with Cargin having had to settle for just one title coup in recent years (2006) after enjoying their own period of dominance over a decade ago.