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Saffron McVeigh on red alert

Sean determined to make amends after dismissal dented Antrim's glory quest

By Declan Bogue

One of the strangest things about the GAA is how a player has to take their place among the supporters in the stands when they are red carded.

It happened almost five weeks ago to Antrim's Sean McVeigh, when he was sent off for an elbow to the face of Fermanagh attacker Ciaran Flaherty, a decision he agrees with having reviewed the video evidence.

He describes the mix of emotions he felt at the time, recalling: "You are so psyched up for the game and at the time I thought I was wrongly sent off. I was still pretty angry with that and we weren't playing well.

"It was even harder to sit and look at it, you are sitting around looking with everybody else, listening to people telling you, (that) you deserved to be sent off, or others telling you it was a bit harsh.

"Either way, I was looking at it as training for six, seven months, to be sent off after 20 minutes. It's very hard to sit among the crowd."

Antrim went on to lose the game heavily to the Erne men, but have a chance to make amends when they meet again in tomorrow's round 2B Qualifier match, in Brewster Park.

Happily, McVeigh is eligible to play and has been named at full-back for the tie, having served his one-game suspension in the unlikely win over Laois in the last round. He admits to a heavy heart in the days after the Ulster exit.

"It's just something you have to get on with," he explains.

"It took me about four or five days to get over it. 'Russ' (Antrim manager Frankie Fitzsimons) gave us the week off and we could go back to our clubs for training, but when I came back there was a sense I was training to not play another game for the year.

"We had drawn Laois and I wasn't too happy with the draw, knowing it was going to be a hard game.

"I knew I had three weeks of training and it possibly was for nothing. But thankfully it has worked out. I have trained away and I am ready to come in for this game against Fermanagh."

The same opposition has framed a lot of McVeigh's ups and downs in football. Back in 2011 he was captain of the London team that defeated Fermanagh in a first-round qualifier in Ruislip, providing the Exiles with their first Championship success in 34 years.

It meant a lot to McVeigh, having missed out on Antrim's run to the 2009 Ulster final having spent the summer playing football in America. Therefore, he wasn't about to cast judgement on the trio of his own All Saints clubman Paddy McAleer, Conor Burke and Paddy McBride as they headed off Stateside after the win over Laois.

"Paddy (McAleer) is from my club and we were in contact a lot as he was asking my opinion," McVeigh tells us.

"At the end of the day, I said to him, 'Look, you have a future with Antrim', he is going to have a future with Antrim for the next several years.

"When you are young, you have to go and do these things once you finish college. You have to take the risk. He might miss out on a run we could go on this year. But I said to him he had to do what he wanted to do, as long as he was up front and honest, everybody would be fine."

He adds, "The three of them were honest, they came up to the training on the Wednesday before they left. They told us their reasons for leaving and they left on good terms. They are players we are going to miss, but that's what the squad is for."

As in the first day, McVeigh is named at full-back, but it seems unlikely he will be playing anywhere but picking up Fermanagh captain Eoin Donnelly at midfield.

The 30-year-old teacher is looking forward to Sunday with a great deal of anticipation.

"You get another bite at the same cherry! You don't often get that in football," he says.

"Drawing Fermanagh again offers a bit of redemption for the team. We knew we played badly the last day so it is a good opportunity to show ourselves and the supporters coming down that we are better than we showed the first day.

"We will look at Fermanagh, how they beat us and what we done wrong and hopefully we can come out the better end of it."

Antrim (v Fermanagh): C Kerr; N Delargy, S McVeigh, J Laverty; J Crozier (C), T Scullion, R Johnston; C Murray, B Hasson; D Lynch, D McAleese, M Pollock, M Sweeney, R Murray, O Gallagher.

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