Saffron Gael speaks to James McAuley
In the build up to Saturday’s Ulster Championship meeting between Cavan and Antrim the Saffron Gael speaks to Antrim’s James McAuley. James is in his second season with Antrim and has been a consistent performer since his debut back in 2019 against London.
James was a member of the St. Enda’s side who won an Ulster Intermediate championship back in 2018 before losing to Kerry champions Killcumin in Croke Park in the All Ireland final.
He could be joined in the Antrim side for Saturday’s game against Cavan in Breffni Park by St. Enda’s colleagues, Peter Healey and Odhran Eastwood with two more St. Enda’s players, Kristan Healey and Eoin Nagle also in the panel.
James McAuley was outstanding last day out as Antrim defeated Waterford in Haggardstown. He scored his first goal for the Saffrons and set up a second for his team mate Odhran Eastwood who bundled the ball to the net after McAuley’s rocket had rebounded of the crossbar.
Saffron Gael: James, how have the preparation been going in the build up to Saturday’s game against Cavan?
James McAuley: Preparations have been going well, there is always a good buzz around the squad in the build up to the Ulster championship. We had a point to prove to ourselves after the disappointing performance against Wicklow and have come off the back of a good team performance against Waterford so there is serious competition for places on Saturday
Saffron Gael: James, you have been a regular in the Antrim side for the past 2 years and turned in consistent performances in the Saffron jersey. Tell us about the championship games you have played in over those 2 years?
James McAuley: I made my championship debut against Tyrone last year. Although they beat us fairly comfortably there have been positives to take from each Championship game over the last year or so. We put in a decent performance in the second half of that game and took that into the qualifiers where we beat Louth and then had positive spells against Kildare in Corrigan Park. We have quite a young squad and the Championship experience is priceless so hopefully with the help of the added experience in the squad this season we can drive it on a bit this year.
Saffron Gael: How do you rate Antrim’s chances against Cavan on Saturday?
James McAuley: Cavan are a very good side and even though they got relegated this year, they were playing in division one 2 years ago and got to the Ulster final last year so there are no doubts around the size of the task in front of us. There will be surprises in this year’s championship, especially playing it in the winter months so all we can do is look after ourselves and get our own performance right and see where that takes us.
Saffron Gael: You were in the Antrim side who defeated Louth in Droheda last year in the qualifiers, one of Antrim’s best championship performances in recent years. There will be no qualifiers this year but what are your memories of that game and can Antrim produce another performance like that on Saturday?
James McAuley: I came off injured fairly early on that day, so I spent most of that game watching on. That was probably our best performance last year. We know that on our day we can be a match for most teams, the challenge now is to be able to turn out those performances on a consistent basis and start to move up the leagues because the atmosphere around Antrim in the lead up to the next qualifier game was something special.
Saffron Gael: Antrim again came close to gaining promotion from division 4 this year, finishing just a point behind Limerick and Wicklow and indeed defeated Limerick in Portglenone in the league. Another win or possibly even a draw would have given us promotion. Where do you think we failed in our promotion bid?
James McAuley: Yes we came close again this year but the league table rarely lies. Division 4 is a very competitive division and any team can take points of each other. We had a couple of good performances and we’ll take the positives from those, but consistency is the key to getting out of that division. We will go at it again next year because playing our football in division 3 and 2 will be key to driving football on within Antrim.
Saffron Gael: Give us your thoughts on the present Antrim panel and add anything else you would like to say about Saturday’s game and Antrim’s prospects.
James McAuley: The current panel is definitely the most competitive I’ve been involved with. We have a good blend of youth and experience and hopefully playing alongside the likes of Paddy Cunningham, Tomas and Mick McCann who have been there and done it helps us come Saturday in Breffni Park.