Neil McGarry is the man who will wear the captain’s armband with the Antrim hurling side this year
And joint manager Dominic McKinley believes that Neil can provide the inspiration not just for the forthcoming National League but for the Saffrons debut in the Leinster Championshipin June.
“Neil has been one of our most consistent players over the past couple of seasons and we feel he is well-equipped to be captain,” maintains McKinley.
McGarry will make his debut as skipper in tomorrow’s Walsh Cup clash with Laois at Rathdowney (2.00) for which Antrim will be missing a raft of players.
“Our Cushendall contingent are still very much involved in preparations for their forthcoming All Ireland Club Championship semi-final and we will have others out through injury buit we’re not complaining too much. Maybe we are are a wee bit behind in terms of overall preparations but that’s not a bad thing in one way,” observes McKinley.
Antrim have beaten Laois in each of the past two seasons so it’s little surprise that McKinley is not particularly fazed by their mission tomorrow - but he’s certainly in no way complacent.
“No, definitely not,” he says, “We want to get up and running properly and we know that Laois have some decent players coming through.”
Johnny Campbell, Karl Stewart, Neil McAuley, Martin Scullion and Kieran Kelly are among the players who can spur the Saffrons to their first win of 2009.
“While we are keen to do well in the Walsh Cup, we have to set our sights on the National League in which we will be meeting Westmeath next month. That will be a big challenge for us and we will still be without our Cushendall players,” points out McKinley.
When it is considered that tomorrow’s absentees include Karl McKeegan, Michael Magill, Neil McManus and Shane McNaughton it can be readily seen that Antrim will be missing some genuine quality.
But McKinley believes that spirit and hunger can bring Antrim an early boost.