| 12.5°C Belfast

Michael McCann: I remain committed to Antrim comeback whenever that might be



Happy days : Michael McCann lifts the Antrim Senior Championship with Cargin last season

Happy days : Michael McCann lifts the Antrim Senior Championship with Cargin last season

�INPHO/Philip Magowan

Paddy Cunningham

Paddy Cunningham

Happy days : Michael McCann lifts the Antrim Senior Championship with Cargin last season

Like many others whose livelihoods have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Antrim midfielder Michael McCann can see some strange good in things as they stand.


Together with his brothers Eamonn and Tomás and sister Eilís, he runs CrossFit Antrim, a gym in Toomebridge that has been forced to close during the health pandemic.

For the gym to function, it needs people taking their subscription-based classes. In their absence, they have been putting on online classes.

It's a difficult time for all, but the Cargin Eire Óg man still has his day job as a surveyor to occupy his time, and his family with three young children.

"The truth is, I probably haven't really thought of it. There's a couple of months gone and I never felt it, probably because I am working. I suppose if I don't play football this year, next year I will because it's a season gone anyway," he said.

McCann is now 34 and, as evidenced by his displays in the Antrim Club Championship last year - especially his late equaliser in the drawn final against Lamh Dhearg - he is playing as well as ever.

Those performances prompted another approach from county manager Lenny Harbinson for him to come back into the Antrim fold. Business and family commitments had kept McCann out for a number of seasons.

"I had to quit because we were having a child, I was opening the gym and we couldn't do it," he recalled.

"The thing that hit me around 2013-14 was that we had just opened the gym. We had no staff, no nothing. The gym was opened for 16 hours of the day and the majority of my day was getting up at half five in the morning to open up the gym and being there to nine o'clock at night.

"And that went on for maybe five, six months. That is a long, long stint. I was building a house at the time, my first son was born that November and it was just constant.

"For me to go to training, even with the club, I was getting somebody to come in and let me go to training. I wasn't getting home at all."

McCann returned to the fold along with two other prominent members of Antrim's run to the 2009 Ulster final; his brother Tomás and Paddy Cunningham.

But just like that, their season was gone from underneath them.

"Truthfully, this is a strange time," he acknowledged.

"When this sort of weather kicks in you would be running to this and that, training away. It's actually been relaxing to know you can do whatever you have been doing, go home in the evening and you are not running everywhere. No one is running!

"Most evenings, I would be getting home and away out to training, or else my wife would be away to the gym. So it's relaxing to know that everyone has nothing to do."

Given his business interest in the gym, McCann's knowledge of strength and conditioning would be somewhere above the average player. Over the last number of years, he has been able to implement CrossFit practices to enhance his own abilities and believes he is all the fresher for it.

That's why he states that he is "100%" going to come back and play for Antrim next year if the 2020 season is written off completely.

"If there is no football played from now to next January, then I would be very surprised if anyone went in stronger or fitter than each other. We would all be on a level playing field," he explained.

"But I know the kind of training I am doing is right for the football field, the 1k or 2k runs, your Olympic lifting. The only thing that will beat me is thinking, 'Am I still prepared to do that?' That's the only thing.

"Maybe it will hit me like a ton of bricks in December, when I could be miles off it, getting slower. But at the minute, it just feels that if it comes in October and we go back, I will be fine."

He added: "I haven't really thought of my age. I put it this way; Kevin Cassidy from Derrygonnelly is playing away and he is 42 and he's running about. He's clearly doing the right training.

"But he is enjoying success. He is doing the right training, he obviously is, and so mentally he is able to stick it out because things are going well.

"That's what will affect me. I am still in good shape. In my head, 'Can I keep this going? Can I go out to training three nights a week from January to October?'

"I am never going to be one of these people who the manager says, 'Come out in April'. I have no interest in that. I do the thing right or not at all.

"It's just a mental thing for me. If I wasn't mentally right, I would have been gone at 27 because the head wouldn't have been in it."

Belfast Telegraph