Ryan casts eye over Shamrocks’ final shot at glory
New Antrim hurling manager Kevin Ryan called in at a number of clubs in the county this week, and was all set to introduce himself to the current All-Ireland champions, Loughgiel Shamrocks ahead of their county final against Dunloy today at Casement Park (7pm).
“He probably wants to meet some of the players that are going to be playing for him, get a view on what people think,” said one of his early rivals for the post until he withdrew from the race, Shamrocks manager PJ O'Mullan junior.
“I think it's a good idea, I think he's a very astute man and will do a very good job.”
While Ryan is piecing together his backroom team, O'Mullan reckons it may be unlikely that Jim Nelson, the interim manager who stepped in after Jerry Wallace left the post, will be involved with Antrim in 2013.
“I know Jim very well and I wouldn't be speaking for Jim because Jim can speak for himself, but the vibes I am getting, is I don't think Jim will be involved in any capacity.”
Saturday's showpiece final is an interesting one.
Dunloy have the legendary Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald in their set-up, assisting manager Seamus McMullan.
It is testament to their friendship and Fitzgerald's hurling addiction. But the relaxed vibe seeping out of the Cuchullains camp will be in stark contrast to how Fitzgerald will motivate them on Saturday night.
The rivalry between the two clubs has always been keen, but Loughgiel had spent the best part of two decades as underdogs in the relationship, over a period that spanned O'Mullan's playing career.
“There's a hell of a lot of rivalry there. Dunloy were the team that I would have grew up with” he said.
“I played on a few bad days when they gave us hammerings. But Dunloy had an exceptional team at the time I was playing against them.”
In the last decade, Dunloy had the upper hand in the 2003 and 2007 finals.
“In those finals we weren't far away,” recalled O'Mullan, “but they were a very talented team. We want to do what's right for us this weekend and I suppose that's retaining our title.”
Along with that motivation, Loughgiel also have the experience of spending the last two winters training under floodlights for their All-Ireland campaigns.
That makes a difference when the ball is thrown in on Saturday night, according to O'Mullan.
“I think it's going to be different,” he said.
“We trained a lot under lights during the winter with the All-Ireland campaign, but for spectators and fans, I have been to a couple of matches under lights, hurling and football.
“It does add to the occasion. It's something new, something different. I wouldn't care where it is, or when it is, as long as the result is right.”