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McKinley warns of hard road ahead for new boss

By Declan Bogue

They hadn't even got as far as the dressing room to deliver the news to the players, but as expected, the Antrim management team of Terence McNaughton, Dominic McKinley, Gary O'Kane and Neal Pedan stepped down immediately after the Ulster final win.

So, it was with that backdrop that McKinley was asked who he feels should come in as the next manager.

"I think at this moment in time, we need someone in-house," he said.

"Somebody with a good structured plan for three or four years. Start off, have a good pre-season."

He warned of the hard road ahead of whoever takes the uneasy mantle.

"I think in this moment in time we have too many players that won't fit in," he said.

"You have to decide, are you going to be a county player, or are you going to be ifs and buts. There can't be any more ifs and buts.

"You have to step in the ring and you have to stay there and work through it. There will be hard times and good times.

"I think the expectations at the start of the year, they set out they were going to get promoted and then win the Christy Ring. Things started to go against them very early on, it turned badly, and I don't think they coped with it. It affects them to the present day."

While this group of players might be scarred in some sense by how things turned out, the same goes for the interim management team and their regrets around the lost Christy Ring final.

"As people, we would not be happy with not winning the Christy Ring and that will hurt us for a long, long time. Defeat never goes away whether you are a manager or a player," said McKinley.

"It's good to finish on this here, but we will always think back and feel that we should have done more in the short space of time we were there. Could we have done more? We feel we could have."

For Armagh manager Sylvester McConnell, there was no axe to grind and no argument about the crucial sending off of midfielder James King that finished their brave resistance.

"The boys put in a good effort - when we came back to four points in the second half, we lost a short puck-out and then had the sending-off," he said.

"It was just unfortunate he was already on a yellow - Eamonn [Hassan] had to make a decision on it, he gave him a yellow, which was fair enough, for a misjudged stick.

"Those two things kind of swung it away from us."

And he added: "Let's be truthful, though: we never hurled anywhere close to what we hurling in the league from the time the league finished.

"It is very hard to do a strong League, a strong Championship [Nicky Rackard], and then an Ulster as well."

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