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PJ O'Mullan is confident Antrim can rise again

By John Campbell

PJ O'Mullan will lead his Loughgiel side into this week-end's Antrim senior hurling championship semi-final against Ruairi Og Cushendall aware that he is very much a frontrunner to succeed Kevin Ryan as county team boss.

O'Mullan, who steered Loughgiel to the All-Ireland Club title three years ago and is a renowned coach, is particularly keen to see his side reclaim the Antrim crown.

And while speculation continues as to just who might take over the county reins, there is no doubt that the soft-spoken O'Mullan possesses admirable qualities for the role.

But he will surely have absorbed the warning contained in a parting shot from Ryan.

"I believe there is a vast amount of change needed to revitalise and improve Antrim hurling and it needs a clear pathway for the next three years or more," stated Ryan.

He left with criticism ringing in his ears following what was perceived as his ultra-defensive stance in the All-Ireland Under-21 semi-final defeat to Wexford.

Yet Ryan's strategy was understandably triggered by the fact that Wexford had beaten Kilkenny by 17 points in the Leinster final.

O'Mullan, meanwhile, retains his focus on Loughgiel's push for domestic glory. The side reigned supreme in Antrim from 2010 until 2013 inclusive, the four titles cementing their dominance.

Yet they endured heartbreak from 2003 to 2008 when they lost six consecutive finals before O'Mullan stopped the rot.

"There is a good depth of hurling talent in Antrim and I believe the county team is further down the pecking order than it should be," maintained O'Mullan.

"The challenge for whoever is appointed as new manager will be to improve Antrim's status and I think this is achievable. For now, I am committed to trying to bring Loughgiel into the final."

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