Antrim have big challenges up ahead: O'Kane
While Gary O'Kane admits he is delighted to digest the prevailing mood of optimism which to some extent has engulfed Antrim, the former senior county hurler and current member of the management team has issued a plea to followers to "keep their feet on the ground".
The theory that Antrim can surge back into Division One in 2019 has been doing the rounds lately but in the week when the county finally succeeded in putting its management backroom personnel in place, long-serving O'Kane issues a plea for patience.
The former Dunloy defender was a member of the Saffrons side that lost in the 1989 All-Ireland final to Tipperary and since then he has continued to serve club and county with distinction - but not to the extent that he has sacrificed realism.
"If you look at the teams we will be meeting in the league next year - the likes of Kerry, Mayo and Westmeath - this gives you an idea of the enormity of the challenge we face," points out O'Kane.
"I know there is a lot of goodwill being shown towards Antrim hurling but people must keep their feet on the ground, The fact of the matter is that other counties, and particularly those we will be facing in the New Year, have been working extremely hard to improve their status."
O'Kane recalls that it was two narrow defeats to Laois and a loss to Carlow in a match in which Joe Maskey sustained a broken foot and Michael Armstrong a broken arm that cost Antrim dearly in the final analysis.
"There can be a fine line between success and failure and while I have no doubt that Antrim will strive to hit the ground running we have to accept that other sides will be trying to do the same," insists O'Kane.
Neal Pedan has assumed the manager's role and he will be supported by former players Jim Close, Karl McKeegan and the irrpressible O'Kane with former Clare All-Ireland winning captain Anthony Daly also agreeing to come on board in a consultancy role.