Antrim could be in line for a welcome boost, says Fitzsimons
Former Antrim football boss Frank Fitzsimons has experienced his fair share of ups and downs in a career that has spanned three decades as a player and manager.
Now as the warm-up process to the new season gathers steam, Lamh Dhearg club dynamo Fitzsimons is hoping to share in what he hopes will prove a vibrant renaissance in the county's fortunes.
On Sunday, Fitzsimons will be in charge of operations when St Enda's meet Spiddal in the All-Ireland intermediate club football semi-final at Navan while, at the same time, St Gall's will be confronting Oranmore-Maree in the All-Ireland intermediate hurling semi-final at Parnell Park, Dublin.
And there could yet be a welcome hat-trick on the cards with Antrim due to face Westmeath in the Kehoe Cup hurling final, also on Sunday.
The arrival of the club teams in the All-Ireland series has sparked tremendous interest within a county that has become rather too well acquainted with heartbreak, frustration and disappointment of late.
Last year saw the Casement Park refurbishment project further delayed and Antrim hurlers suffered relegation in the league, while the footballers failed in their bid to extricate themselves from Division Four.
But suddenly optimism has invaded the gloom and the prospect of possible All-Ireland success of some hue has ignited a new spirit within the county.
"I think that the spirit which both these Antrim clubs have shown in reaching the All-Ireland semi-finals has been admirable," declares Fitzsimons.
"Last year was my first with St Enda's and I was knocked out by the commitment and attitude of the players. I know for a fact that things are very much the same at St Gall's.
"I believe that both St Enda's and St Gall's as well as the county hurlers can strike a blow for Antrim pride on Sunday. I feel it is important that a number of these club players from both codes have won things at under-age level and indeed at a higher level. When you have players like that in there it keeps things ticking over. We want to challenge the players to be the best that they can be."