Who is Mark Gardiner?

Saffron Gael interviews Antrim’s latest football recruit

As Antrim took the field at Glenavy on Sunday for their NFL Division 4 opening game against Wexford the question on many peoples lips was, who is Mark Gardiner? Gardiner made his National League debut wearing the number 4 jersey with his club listed on the official programme as Gaeil Baile Shiomoin so I was anxious to find out more about the man who had just turned in a solid performance in Antrim’s win over Wexford.

Saffron Gael: Like many others, I was asking when I saw your name on a McKenna Cup team sheet a few weeks ago, who is Mark Gardiner? Hopefully this article will let them know who you are and I believe you went some way to answering that question by your performance today. How did you find your National League debut and how do you think you did? 

Mark was reluctant to speak about his own contribution, saying he would let others judge that but was delighted by Antrim’s performance and he wore a broad smile as he celebrated with his Saffron colleagues after the game.

Saffron Gael: Congratulations on a good performance in what I believe was your debut for Antrim. You’re from county Meath. How did you come to be playing for Antrim?

Mark Gardiner: I was born and lived in Antrim until I was 10 or 11. We moved South to Dublin for a year and then onto Meath where we’ve settled and where I began to play football. It was actually our club manager that got in contact with the Antrim management to inform them of the Antrim connection. After that Lenny and Brendan came to watch a championship game I was involved in with the club and they asked me if I would be interested in joining the set up there and then. It was too good an opportunity for me to turn down so I was delighted to say yes!

Saffron Gael: Tell me something about your GAA career in county Meath. What club do you play for?  What division of the Meath league do they play in? Have you won any honours for your club?

Mark Gardiner: I play my football with Simonstown Gaels in Navan. We’re a division 1 senior club. I was involved in the first Simonstown team to win an U21 championship and then a couple of years later we won the Meath Senior championship and retained it the year after.

The Simonstown Gaels man did enough on Sunday to suggest he will be a useful addition to the Antrim side. He made himself available for short kick-outs during the opening half and gave Wexford’s Ben Brosnan little time or space throughout the game.

After the game he wore a broad smile which reflected his satisfaction on a job well done. Mark makes the journey from Navan to Belfast twice a week for training and at present is clearly enjoying life with his new Antrim colleagues and I’d expect him to be in the starting line-up when they face Sligo on Sunday at Markievicz Park.

Games against Sligo have been difficult for Antrim over the years and too often the Saffrons have come out on the wrong side of the result but there was a confidence about Lenny Harbinson’s side on Sunday that augers well for the season ahead.

A win in Sligo would set them up nicely for a strong promotion bid and wouldn’t it be a dream come true for their latest recruit if they could go on to gain promotion from division 4 in his first season with Antrim!

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