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I'll look everywhere for fresh Antrim stars, says new manager Lenny

 

By Declan Bogue

New Antrim senior football manager Lenny Harbinson has vowed to scour the county looking for fresh talent and bring back all the stay-away players of recent years.

After his name was recommended by the Football Review Panel of Paul McErlain, Alec McQuillan and Ciaran Hamill, the 2010 All-Ireland club Championship winning St Gall's boss was ratified by the Antrim county board at the Dunsilly Hotel last night.

Harbinson, who brings along respected coach Brendan Trainor of Augher to the role, beat off stiff competition from former Armagh All-Ireland winner Aidan O'Rourke and ex-county player John McKeever, who is currently manager of Coalisland and whose side were knocked out of the Tyrone Championship by Trillick last night.

At present, Harbinson is manager of Armagh club Ballymacnab Round Towers, who are in the county Championship semi-final this Friday against Armagh Harps.

He succeeds previous management Frankie Fitzsimmons and Gearoid Adams, taking on a three-year deal which will be reviewed annually.

Next year, Antrim begin life in Division Four, where Harbinson spent most of his dozen years representing the Saffron footballers across three different decades.

"First and foremost there will be certain players who didn't play last year. I want to have a chat with them to find out what their interest is," the BT communications manager told the Belfast Telegraph.

"What I want to do is all the clubs - intermediate and junior clubs and not just senior clubs - find any interested parties, search wide and high for any talent who has an interest and conduct a number of trial games.

"Out of those trial games we will pull together a panel to play against last year's panel and, from that, formalise a panel for the McKenna Cup. We'll certainly be touching upon junior clubs as well as intermediate and senior clubs and looking. It will be an open door policy."

Harbinson revealed that landing the job was the start of realising his managerial ambitions at this level.

While he led St Gall's to that 2010 All-Ireland club title, he resigned from the post in February 2012, citing internal differences in the club.

Since then he has coached Dublin club St Brigid's and had a spell involved with Dundalk Gaels.

This is now his second season with Ballymacnab as he bids to steer them to their first ever county title in Armagh.

"I always had an aspiration at some stage that I would want to manage my own county," Harbinson said.

"It was like when I was managing St Gall's minors - at some stage you would look at the seniors when they were going well, and the aspiration was that I would step up and take that challenge.

"I managed at club level, the next level up is the ultimate, at county level. And to manage your own county, there is a lot of pride to be had in that. A lot of challenges as we know, but I am not afraid of a challenge."

Chair of the Review Group, Alec McQuillan, said: "Lenny gave an excellent presentation of his wide-ranging and detailed approach, and we felt that he was best suited for the job at this time."

Antrim Chairman, Collie Donnelly added: "Lenny is a manager of the highest calibre and we are looking forward to the new season. We are also very grateful to Gearoid Adams and Frank Fitzsimons, two very committed Antrim men, for their work with the team."

Harbinson will be a popular appointment given his track record of success.

As a player with St Gall's and Antrim, he captured the 1982 Ulster club Championship along with several county titles, and played for Antrim across three decades.

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