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Antrim's attitude delights manager Frank Fitzsimons

By John Campbell

A ten-year age gaps exists between Antrim football duo Tony Scullion and Declan Lynch yet they are securely bonded by two qualities close to the heart of manager Frank Fitzsimons - pride and desire.

And given the ambivalence that has in the past been shown towards the county jersey by certain players, Fitzsimons has special reason to cherish the hunger for success which his current squad is showing.

Indeed, it was a perceived lack of ambition on the part of former players that rendered the post of manager as something akin to a poisoned chalice but you won't hear the ebullient Fitzsimons wallowing in negativity.

"Look, this job was never a poisoned chalice for me," he insists. "I am an Antrim man through and through. It's an honour for me to be in charge of this team. I've been watching the talent coming through this past few years.

"There are people out there knocking us all the time but some day it's going to happen big-time for us.

"When things happen in our county like players leaving or things like that, it just seems to be made 10 times worse."

It's no surprise, then, to learn that Fitzsimons is "delighted" with the attitude and approach of his squad as they fine-tune their preparations for Sunday's Ulster Championship confrontation in Fermanagh.

And with 32-year-old Scullion and 22-year-old Lynch very much to the fore in training, Fitzsimons sees them as the embodiment of the spirit and commitment that he had been hoping to ferment within the squad when he first took charge.

"When I look at Tony Scullion as fresh as a daisy after 12 years or so in the side and someone coming through strongly like Declan it gives me great encouragement," states Fitzsimons.

"This is an amateur sport and people have their own lives to live but when you get players buying into an ideal and prepared to do all they can for their county, this gives you a great lift."

Veteran Scullion believes that the desire for success within the Antrim squad is much more palpable now.

"We have players that want to wear the jersey with pride and that's a good thing. We also have belief in our ability and the level of fitness and skill that can maybe take us past Fermanagh," points out Scullion.

And Lynch is adamant that there is a real depth of quality within the Antrim squad.

"I honestly believe that the talent is there and the hunger as well to take Antrim to a better place. While we were disappointed that we did not gain promotion, we now have the chance to prove ourselves on the Championship stage," says Lynch.

Belfast Telegraph


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