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We ditched those not committed to Antrim cause, says McKinley

Carlow v Antrim, Allianz Hurling League Division 2A: Dr Cullen Park, Sunday, 2.00 pm

By Declan Bogue

Antrim hurler’s tough pre-season was organised, according to joint-manager Dominic ‘Woody’ McKinley, “To sort out the people who didn’t want to play for Antrim, without asking them.”

The Saffrons embarked upon what Neil McManus last week referred to as the toughest pre-season of his career and McKinley couldn’t be more delighted ahead of a crucial trip away to Carlow (tomorrow, 2pm) in round two of the Allianz Hurling League.

“We wanted a programme put in place that the people that were there for the ride wouldn’t last it,” explained the centre-back on Antrim’s 1989 All-Ireland final team. “We felt that for too long, people have been misusing Antrim hurling, coming along and tagging along a night here and a night there.

“We wanted that done away with. We feel that at this moment in time, we have a positive group of players dedicated to it who have made sacrifices. It was eight or nine weeks of tough gruel and it built a bit of character in them.”

Antrim got their season proper under way with a win at home to London last weekend and although their panel numbers just 28, McKinley has declared himself happy with having a tighter unit. 

“You can’t bring somebody in later. That’s the way it used to happen that coming up to the Championship you have players coming in here and there,” he stated. “If there is a genuine reason that we could bring someone in, then fine. But we would have to do a fitness programme with them.”

Now into his third stint as part of the senior hurling team management, as well as a spell alongside Terence McNaughton with the county minors, McKinley believes his experience will stand to him as Antrim bid to gain promotion from Division 2A and capture the Christy Ring Cup.

“I want to do this right this time,” he said. “In the past, I did accept things. I did accept players coming and going, because I felt that was right for the county.

“You learn from your mistakes. And I want it done right. Not people messing around. I want people doing it the same way as everybody else. There are no loopholes here.”

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