McManus vows to show fighting spirit for Antrim
On Saturday night, Antrim hurling captain Neil McManus was hoping to be in London for the Prizefighter event. A massive fight fan, he wanted to cheer on ‘Big Rogie.'
Instead, he was otherwise engaged as Antrim opened their National hurling League campaign with a narrow defeat away to Limerick.
After last year's 32-point defeat to the Treatymen, they had to adopt a ‘gloves-off' policy to avoid another similar beating.
Antrim were ahead at half-time, indeed they were six points clear at one stage, but were edged out by the final whistle, a David Breen goal down the stretch the deciding margin.
“We just decided on Sunday there was no pressure on us, that we would go out there and work as hard as we possibly could for the 70 minutes,” McManus reflected.
“We knew that we were going to need to bring in our five subs at some stage because if everybody was working that hard we would need fresh legs and we would see where that would take us.
“We know that we have good hurlers and we just wanted to go out and work extremely hard and see if we could be in the game right up to the very end of it.”
McManus himself turned in a typically magnificent performance, top-scoring with eleven points, eight of them from placed ball.
Two of them — one a penalty and another 21-yard free — were deflected over the crossbar and could have made a massive difference to proceedings.
Despite his own brilliance, he wasn't satisfied with the days' work.
“I don't believe in moral victories, but at the same time it was the performance we were after.
“We wanted to work extremely hard, we have done that over the course of the 72, 73 minutes and we were competitive.”
Certain things happened for Antrim that must have been pleasing.
Graeme Mulcahy had 2-2 on the board after 19 minutes for Munster against Ulster in the Inter-provincial clash the previous week.
When asked how Antrim were going to handle that threat during the hurling launch last week, McManus emphatically answered: “Aaron Graffin.”
So it proved, as he held Mulcahy to a single point.
Dublin come to Casement Park for the next game, having already made their mark over the weekend with a win over Offaly.
McManus is already pleading caution before their first home game.
“It will be a huge ask for us to beat Dublin — no doubt about that — but at the same time you never know where your points are going to turn up and we will be going out to put them under as much pressure as possible and go after another performance.
“It's not going to be a quick fix, it's not going to be today or tomorrow that we are the finished article, it is going to be a season or two.
“But we are looking forward to that, looking forward to putting in the work,” he finished.