Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Inspired Antrim eye up double

Antrim could enjoy a double boost this weekend.

Today they face Kilkenny in Division Four of the National Football League and tomorrow the Saffrons host Westmeath in Division Two of the National Hurling League.

While young guns like Michael Herron and Johnny Campbell will fire up the Saffrons’ bid to get the hurlers off on the right foot, emerging stars Tomas McCann and Kevin Boyle will help to bolster Liam Bradley’s football side.

And if this infusion of youth helps to bring success in both games, then no-one will be more pleased than the father of Antrim GAA, 92-year-old Sean McGettigan.

Tomorrow he will have a key role in events to launch Antrim’s input into the GAA 125th anniversary celebrations which will be staged in tandem with the Casement Park hurling encounter.

Still hale and hearty, Sean (inset) is an iconic figure in Ulster having fulfilled numerous roles down through the years.

He was a pioneer of ground development and was chairman of the Corrigan Park committee which in 1943 commenced the task for fund-raising to refurbish the famous venue on the Whiterock Road - and still had enough cash left to set the wheels in motion for the construction of Casement Park!

Antrim county board secretary Frankie Quinn hails Sean’s contribution to the GAA in the county and reflects on his vision and emnterprise.

“Sean was a trail-blazer, a man ahead of his team,” maintains Frankie, “He did not allow any obstacles to get in his path when he set his mind on achieving something and one of his greatest strengths was that he was able to take people down with him along the path of progress.”

A former student at St Patrick’s College, Armagh, he subsequently played for the orchard county before moving to Antrim where, following his colossal work in relation to Corrigan Park and Casement Park, he became vice-chairman of the county board.

He is a renowned historian and has made his presence felt at all levels within the GAA.

“We are greatly appreciated to people like Sean,” enthuses Frankie Quinn, “He has performed wonderful deeds and his commitment still knows no bounds despite the fact that he is over ninety years of age.”

Tomorrow Sean will give a special talk outlining many of the landmark events that have highlighted 125 years of the GAA in Antrim following the Casement Park tie between the Saffrons and Westmeath.

“Sean was personally present at so many of these events and he is such a great raconteur that many people are looking forward very much to hearing him,” adds Quinn.

For joint Antrim bosses Terence McNaughton and Dominic McKinley the talk will assume added significance if their team should manage to get their National League campaign off to a winning start at Westmeath’s expense.

McKinley is certainly convinced that Antrim can win, too.

“When we played against Kilkenny last month, I thought at certain stages of the game we might have gone on to win. Maybe we just need that wee bit of extra quality in the side but we as management could not question the players’ commitment.

“It’s very important that we get points tomorrow as we still have teams such as Wexford and Laois to meet.

“I’m long enough about to realise what we have to do to make an impact in the league,” points out McKinley.

Paddy Richmond returned to training this week while Cormac Donnelly is back from the US and Eddie McCloskey is almost fully recovered from injury - all plus-factors that prompt McKinley to believe his side can do themselves justice over the coming weeks.

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