Former Antrim skipper Paddy Cunningham is prepared to return to the county colours should the new manager wish to avail of his services.
Lamh Dhearg clubman Cunningham led Antrim in the 2009 Ulster final when they were beaten by Tyrone before running Kerry close in the All-Ireland qualifiers.
He remained a key member of the attack — and was consistently the side’s highest scorer — up until Antrim’s defeat in the Ulster Championship by Monaghan in May this year.
Subsequently, the 28-year-old schoolteacher left the panel and his sharpshooting skills were clearly missed even though the Saffrons beat London and Galway before eventually going out of the All-Ireland qualifiers against Tipperary.
Now Cunningham, who revelled in the role of captain, clearly relishes the prospect of donning the Antrim jersey again.
And he is hoping that the county board will “think outside the box” when it comes to appointing a new manager in succession to Liam Bradley.
“Derry and Monaghan have confirmed their new managers and those appointments appear to have been well received within the respective counties. I would now like to think that Antrim will come up with the right man for the job who can take the team forward,” said Cunningham.
“I believe there is a lot of talent in Antrim and I think that whoever takes over will have the task of harnessing this into a winning combination.
“That is a big task but it’s not impossible. Players still regard it as an honour to play for their county. I looked on it as a privilege to have served as captain.
“We managed to hold onto our place in Division Three of the league but Antrim have the capacity to get into Division Two. In the Ulster Championship we were leading Monaghan in the third quarter of the game by three points before we fell away in the last quarter and that was very disappointing from our perspective because we felt we could have won the game.”
Four candidates for the post of Antrim hurling manager were interviewed last night and now he focus will immediately switch to the appointment of a new football boss which county chairman Jim Murray hopes can be made “as soon as possible”.
And he added pointedly: “It will be up to the new manager to bring in the players who he feels can best serve the county team so I would imagine that the door will be open to everyone who is prepared to put their shoulder to the wheel.”
County PRO Brendan Mulgrew is equally emphatic in urging that players such as Paddy Cunningham, CJ McGourty and others should be considered.
“Antrim cannot afford to be without quality players even though others are beginning to come through,” he said.
Paddy has been our captain in the past and if he is willing to resume his role with the county, then that has to be an encouraging sign.”