Jim McKernan admits that what he and Paul McKillen is bringing to the Antrim camogie team this year is not new or revolutionary.
“We are into basic drills, nothing complicated. Just getting people to buy into what we have going”.
It seems to be a winning formula as Antrim won their opening two games in Division Two of the National League with resounding victories and were certain to win a semi-final spot before the coronavirus crisis closed the league down.
“At the moment what is happening all around us is much more important than camogie. However I am pretty confident that the girls we currently have in the Antrim county set-up will look after themselves and each other and will emerge from the crisis as a strong unit.
“I have been very impressed by the attitude of every single girl in the panel since we took over in January, how they carry themselves, the fun they have and how seriously they take their training and matches.”
Jingo (McKernan) was first involved with Antrim camogie away back in 2007 and later on in 2014 he and Humpy (McKillen) “answered an SOS”.
“Paul’s daughter Samantha was in the team around then and it was basically something short term to see the season out. There was no plan to take it forward.
“Then around Christmas past, Paul suggested that taking Antrim camogs might be something we would enjoy. We met up with the County Board chairman and secretary and got a really positive feeling that they wanted to make headway in 2020 and we felt that they would really support us.
“Sometimes you get handed the job of managing the senior team, be it club or county, and you quickly learn that the committee are not really behind you. This was different.”
A meeting with the players was called in mid-January but not many turned up.
“The meeting was at short notice in fairness and we did get quite a few messages to say that individuals couldn’t make it, but wanted to be involved. Then at the meeting itself there was a good interaction and it just took off from there.”
The Quality manager in Bombardier has been impressed since by the attitude of the players and each day they trained his admiration grew.
“As Paul said at the first meeting, they had come through underage and schools as winners. Our job was to help them realise that potential, continue that natural progress. Derry had done it in the past by building on underage and school potential. Now Antrim has that underage success and players and management together have to bring that potential forward.”
The Sarsfield’s club man admits that McKillen’s enthusiasm is infectious.
“Paul has taken the lead. He is buzzing about the potential there. He has brought a lot of energy to the set up and I, as much as the players, have fed off that energy.
“I have known Paul a long time now. We played together and then took Antrim and later Down hurlers together.”
The start of the season had already been stuttered with a league game against Laois postponed on two occasions. That game had been re-scheduled for Sunday past before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down all games and training.
“The postponements because of storm Ciara and Dennis didn’t knock us off course and the coronavirus won’t either. From a camogie perspective, we can’t control what is happening at the minute – we can only look after ourselves and those closest to us.
“We have to focus on controlling what we can control. There is no point in being frustrated about not getting to play camogie.
“We will get back playing camogie eventually. Every county has the same problem. It might be after Easter. Realistically it might be July or later and it might mean a radically different programme of games to what we have at the moment.
“When we do get back though we will pick up from where we left off with all the elements in place to move Antrim camogie forward.”