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Veteran O'Boyle still relishing Antrim duty

 

By John Campbell

Antrim may have failed to gain promotion from Division Four, are rank outsiders in the Ulster title race and have been forced to contend with injuries recently, yet long-serving defender Kevin O'Boyle has suddenly thrust an unusual word into their Championship preparations.

Amid growing dissatisfaction within some inter-county squads because of what are perceived to be inordinate demands on players, Cargin clubman O'Boyle candidly admits that he thoroughly enjoys his involvement with the Saffrons.

'Enjoy' is certainly not a word that figures prominently in the overall Championship narrative but it encapsulates the former county skipper's feelings on his role within the Antrim squad.

Eleven years as a member of the team - he is now 30 - have long since convinced schoolteacher O'Boyle that it is "a privilege" to represent his county and he reveals that he can't wait for the Championship clash with Down on May 26.

"We might have missed out on promotion but I thoroughly enjoyed playing with Antrim in the league. I think it is brilliant to be injury-free and able to play, and I feel sorry for players who are not able to make a contribution to their counties because of injuries, especially the long-term cases," stated O'Boyle.

"It is a privilege to play at inter-county level. I made my debut for Antrim when I was 19 and I am getting as much satisfaction now as I ever did."

Antrim were pipped at the post by Carlow for promotion to Division Three and now O'Boyle believes the side must step up to the mark in the Championship.

The fact that they have to travel to Down imposes a stiff challenge but O'Boyle is convinced that his side will be well prepared.

"We have put the league behind us. We're going in against a Down side that did not do as well in Division Three as they would have liked and we will be ready to fire on all cylinders," he said.

"We accept that Down have been playing higher quality teams than us so that will stand to them. Gearoid Adams, who is part of their management team, was with us in Antrim, along with Frank Fitzsimons, so he will know us inside out.

"We have to be ready for this. There is no doubt that Down will be well set up. Despite their relegation, we know they have stellar players in the likes of Caolan Mooney, Kevin McKernan and Connaire Harrison, and we will need to be at the top of our game to cope with these guys."

O'Boyle hails the impact Antrim boss Lenny Harbinson has made in his first season in charge and believes he will have the side primed for their big test.

"Lenny is a shrewd operator and knows his stuff. For our part as players, we will work hard over the next couple of weeks to make sure we give this Down game the best rattle that we can," he added.

"You want to be playing Ulster Championship football. I got a great buzz while playing at this level as a teenager and I know I will get it again this time round."

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