Antrim football manager Frank Dawson and his hurling counterpart Kevin Ryan have reinforced their drive for even greater commitment and discipline within their respective squads.
Dawson has already axed experienced forward Michael Magill from his panel while Ryan, now totally focussed on Sunday’s important Division 1B Allianz Hurling League clash with Dublin at Casement Park, has reiterated that he expects his players to “give it everything” as the Saffrons bid to join the elite in Division 1A.
And having taken three points from a possible six, Dawson will take his team to face Wicklow on Sunday knowing that victory in Aughrim could thrust them into the promotion race.
“I am getting great commitment from the players and in turn they are showing terrific character. This was very noticeable in their draw with Fermanagh at the weekend and this sets us up for our trip to Wicklow, a team that many believe could be among the promotion favourites,” says Dawson.
The loss of Magill, a strong ball-carrier, is offset by the fact that Ryan Murray is showing superb form in the Antrim attack while Tómas McCann is fully fit again, Paddy Cunningham is enjoying a new lease of life and Michael Pollock is bringing skill and experience to the table.
“I think the important thing for us going to Wicklow is that we take our chances. Sean McVeigh scored a great goal for us against Fermanagh that lifted the whole side,” insists Dawson.
Similarly, Ryan is hoping that his hurlers can build on the wholehearted performance they gave against Limerick in their opening league encounter when they only fell by three points — a margin that was in sharp contrast to the 32-point mauling they suffered from the same team in the All-Ireland qualifiers last year.
Skipper Neil McManus, Simon McCrory, Matthew Donnelly and Shane McNaughton are in the vanguard of Antrim’s bid to become a major hurling force under Ryan.
The former Carlow boss, a native of Waterford, has instilled levels of passion and energy within the Antrim side that fuel the belief they could make an impact this year.
Ryan said: “I have players who want to play for the jersey and that’s all that matters. I want them to give it everything so that they can hold their heads high.
“We are in a very tough division but we have to face these challenges if we are to improve out status.”
Antrim county board officials are backing their managerial duo to deliver the goods and are impressed by their passionate approach to their roles.
“Obviously discipline and commitment are central to the psyche of any team that is serious in its search for success,” says county chairman Jim Murray.
“These players in both codes are proving worthy ambassadors for Antrim on and off the field of play and it would be great if their efforts were to bring about some form of tangible reward.”