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McKinley hoping his Saffrons can give him a happy Croker memory

By John Campbell

Published 24/05/2016

Final pain: Dominic McKinley tasted All-Ireland misery 27 years ago
Final pain: Dominic McKinley tasted All-Ireland misery 27 years ago

Some 27 years have elapsed since Dominic McKinley strode the Croke Park pitch as a member of the Antrim side that faced Tipperary in the All-Ireland hurling final.

Defeat was the Saffrons' lot on that occasion but the memories of the game are still videoed in McKinley's memory bank.

That's just one of the reasons why he is anticipating a return to Headquarters on Sunday week as part of the Antrim management team for the Christy Ring Cup final against Meath.

"I believe that all players aspire to play in Croke Park and I'm delighted that this group of Antrim players will now get that opportunity," stated McKinley.

"While we were pushed very hard in our Christy Ring semi-final win over Down, I still think it might stand to us when we come up against Meath.

"I watched Meath beat Kildare in their semi-final and we know for sure that they are going to be very difficult opponents."

McKinley, who forms the Antrim management set-up along with Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton, Gary O'Kane and Neal Pedan, is convinced that the current side have now reached the right level of maturity for a higher environment.

"These boys know just how much is riding on winning the Christy Ring Cup," pointed out Loughgiel legend McKinley. "Victory would allow us back into the Leinster Championship next year which would in essence mean a return to the All-Ireland Championship proper.

"This is where the boys want to be playing. We had problems earlier in the year but I think the players can paint a good picture for Ulster hurling in Croke Park along with Armagh, who are in the Nicky Rackard Cup final."

McKinley maintains the Antrim management will look to players like Eddie McCloskey, Eoghan Campbell, Neal Macauley, Ciaran Clarke, Conor Johnston, Simon McCrory and Ciaran Johnston to set the tone.

He added: "Now is the time for them to make their mark. The best way you can do that is by winning trophies."

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