When St Enda’s, Glengormley won the Antrim and Ulster Intermediate Club Football Championship titles in 2018, Peter Healy thought his playing career had peaked.
Having been studying in Dublin while St Enda’s went about following up their Antrim Championship title coup by landing the provincial crown, Healy logged up huge mileage in playing his part in what was an unprecedented dual triumph for his club under the baton of former Antrim boss Frank Fitzsimons.
But on Sunday, 24-year-old Healy will add another string to his impressive bow when he captains Antrim for the first time in the Ulster Championship with Armagh in the opposite corner at the Athletic Grounds.
And, somewhat unusually for a Saffrons skipper, Healy will be leading an undefeated side into the provincial flagship competition.
Having surged through Division Four North of the Allianz League, Antrim have earned their place in Division Three next year but Healy candidly admits that he has additional fish to fry now as his team, rejuvenated and fired with renewed ambition, bid to leave their imprint on the Ulster series.
“While our target from the outset of the season was to win promotion from Division Four, the fact that we have achieved this in what was a hard slog has given us fresh heart going into the Ulster Championship,” said Healy. “The league obviously was a big stepping stone for us but now that we have reached that particular goal we naturally enough want to build on it.”
The new management team of Enda McGinley and Stephen O’Neill have already instilled a fresh buoyancy within the side and Healy believes that the players are bringing a greater level of dedication and commitment to the table.
On Sunday he will lead out a team that is a fusion of youth and experience with Declan Lynch and Patrick Gallagher joining him in helping to shore up the defence, while Marc Jordan and Dermot McAleese have the capacity to mount sustained counter-attacks.
From a Saffrons perspective, it could be said that James McAuley, Conor Stewart and Odhran Eastwood are the exciting new kids on the block while the Murray brothers Conor and Ryan, along with Patrick Cunningham, carry a cutting edge in attack.
Cunningham celebrated his 36th birthday recently and despite his ongoing battle against Crohn’s Disease has now established himself as Antrim’s not-so-secret weapon given the reaction he has engendered in his current role as an impressive impact substitute.
“I think we have quality within the side and there is a very good blend,” pointed out Healy.
“Don’t forget, we gave Cavan a run for their money in the Ulster Championship last year — and we all saw what Cavan went on to achieve.”