Former Derry defender Paul McFlynn is bracing himself for one of the biggest challenges of his career.
The Loup clubman is manager of the Kickhams Creggan side that will meet St Gall’s in the Antrim Senior Championship quarter-final on Sunday night knowing that victory could thrust the club into pole position for the title.
The enormity of McFlynn’s task is underlined by the fact that St Gall’s have won 10 of the last 11 titles and also claimed the All-Ireland club crown two years ago.
But while acknowledging the pace, power and strength in depth of St Gall’s, McFlynn believes that if his Creggan side can maximise their potential then they could cause an upset.
“St Gall’s have been the kingpins of Antrim football for some years now and obviously they will want to remain as champions,” pointed out McFlynn.
No stranger to demanding assignments, McFlynn was a member of the last Derry side to reach an All-Ireland semi-final, falling to Kerry 1-17 to 1-11 eight years ago.
His managerial know-how and expertise in the sphere of physical fitness in particular have helped to revitalise a Kickhams Creggan side that is an amalgam of youth and experience.
Last week St Gall’s were stretched to the limit by a feisty Lamh Dhearg outfit before a finishing burst carried them over the line by 0-14 to 0-11.
The combined skills of CJ McGourty, Kevin Niblock and Karl Stewart up front proved crucial in the St Gall’s victory.
And that’s why McFlynn is hoping that the talented Johnston brothers, Ricky and Martin, can lead the defiance against the champions. The pair have made an impact in the Antrim defence this year and, although still young, they have been quickly gaining in experience.
Kickhams Creggan chairman Tony McCollum insisted that while the defence faces a big test, it is nonetheless a solid unit.
“We don’t want to concede frees if at all possible. St Gall’s are very experienced and they have the confidence and cohesion that comes with a long winning streak,” pointed out McCollum with typical candour.
St Brigid’s, who handed out a sharp lesson to St Paul’s last week-end, look capable of enhancing their title credentials when they meet St Mary’s Ahoghill at Casement Park tonight (8.30pm).
The south Belfast side were in impressive form against St Paul’s as their 3-10 total testifies but assistant manager Eunan Conway emphasised that this has not bred the slightest complacency in terms of tonight’s game.
“Things went right for us against St Paul’s and we took our goal chances,” he said.
“But we have to be on our guard because St Mary’s have some fine players and they will relish this challenge,” stated Conway.