Antrim chairman Jim Murray accepts that the double defeat suffered by St Gall’s and Aghagallon in Sunday’s Ulster Club Football Championship semi-finals is “a setback” — but insists that this will lend impetus to his drive to see the county’s stock enhanced.
The Football Focus Group will present a report to the County Convention on Wednesday week which is expected to contain proposals aimed at streamlining fixtures and improving standards.
The group has undertaken a root and branch study of football at all levels in the county and Murray is hopeful that its conclusions will pave the way to a better future.
New Antrim manager Frank Dawson was at the Athletic Grounds to see St Gall’s fall to Kilcoo in the Senior Club semi-final and Aghagallon outgunned by Warrenpoint in their Intermediate last four tie.
Murray, while disappointed that Antrim will not be represented in any of the Ulster club finals, nonetheless maintains that there is “a strong determination” within the county board to take football forward.
“We have a new county management team in place, preparations for the new season have already commenced in earnest and there is a raft of fresh talent.
“These are encouraging portents for 2013,” says Murray.
“There is a strong determination that we should go forward and no stone will be left unturned to ensure that we make headway.”
There is considerable surprise, indeed shock, within Antrim that St Gall’s failed to make it into the Ulster final but their manager Karl McCabe is making no excuses for his side’s exit.
Tyrone man McCabe is candid in assessing the display, refusing to dwell on the numerous scoring chances missed, particularly in the opening 20 minutes.
“Kilcoo lost a man but they did not allow us to use our extra player because of the way they were set up,” admitted McCabe.
“Kilcoo were very switched on and they have to be given credit for that.
“Their work-rate was very intense throughout and late in the game they seemed to be the more experienced outfit.”
McCabe’s analysis has already been digested in Crossmaglen where the management team of Tony McEntee and Gareth O’Neill have commenced an intensive build-up to the provincial final.
The reigning All-Ireland champions will certainly absorb a lesson from the fact that St Gall’s ultimately paid a heavy penalty for spurning chances, including two gilt-edged goal opportunities, when the heat was on.
McCabe, for one, is of the opinion that Kilcoo will not be overawed by their task in the decider despite the glowing credentials that Crossmaglen Rangers will bring to the table.
“Kilcoo are very difficult to beat. They never let up, they play well together and they now have increased confidence,” states McCabe.
“They know that they will be playing against the All-Ireland champions who have already shown that they are very keen to retain their crown,” points out the St Gall’s boss.