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O'Kane in pole position for permanent Antrim job

By Declan Bogue

Gary O'Kane has emerged as an early front-runner to become the new Antrim senior hurling manager. The Dunloy man - along with Terence McNaughton, Dominic McKinley and Neal Pedan - formed the interim management team that took over from PJ O'Mullan, and they delivered the Ulster title on Sunday.

While the management team stepped down en masse after the Liam Harvey Cup win in Owenbeg, it is believed that O'Kane, the youngest Antrim player in the 1989 All-Ireland final team, could be persuaded to take the job on.

And his chances have increased after Antrim county board Chairman Collie Donnelly said they would be looking inside the county for the next manager.

"We have a couple of options now - you can try and look within the county or outside it. I think, considering where we are at the moment, there is more of an appetite to go from within," Donnelly told the Belfast Telegraph.

"That seems to be the feeling. We had a disappointing year but we need to take our time. We have a couple of months now to get our heads together."

Donnelly and members of the county executive will meet with the outgoing management team next week for a review of their time in charge and will begin the search for their successor after that.

Other names that are sure to come under consideration are O'Kane's Dunloy clubmate Shane Elliott and St Gall's man Ollie Bellew.

Gregory O'Kane could also be a dark horse, but, now in his second year, he appears to be committed to a long-term project as Dunloy manager.

Donnelly also revealed that an announcement on a fundraising campaign is imminent, fulfilling a promise of the 'Saffron Vision' group that secured several county board roles at the last convention.

"That was part of our mandate," explained Donnelly.

"We are trying to get fundraising mechanisms to fund our Development Squads. We are just about to announce the fundraising campaign and we have a couple of companies signed up.

"You have to start at the bottom and work your way up. That's the plan."

Saffrons captain Conor Carson, meanwhile, has said that he does not mind if the next manager is from outside the county.

"I have played under local managers and lads from the south: Dinny Cahill, Jerry Wallis, Kevin Ryan, all good coaches," he commented.

"To be honest it doesn't make any difference to me if they are 10 minutes down the road or a five-hour drive. Once they are in there it's alright- as long as they are there and committed to the job."

Belfast Telegraph


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