By Paddy McIlwaine
As the full time whistle sounded at the Athletic Grounds today like many others I began to reflect on the game I had just watched. For this Antrim Gael defeat is always a difficult pill to swallow though over the years I have been forced to swallow it many times.
This season though has been a good one for Antrim followers and they have performed admirably on both the football and hurling front, not to forget the Camogie and ladies football performances.
Today though my thoughts were with Antrim’s footballers. They have been under new management this year with Enda McGinley and his assistants, Stephen O’Neill and Sean Kelly taking over the reins. From his appointment Enda McGinley was adamant that promotion from division 4 was his ambition and he has delivered.
Three wins on the bounce against Louth, Sligo and Leitrim put Antrim through to a promotion play-off place against Waterford in Dungarven. I was privileged to have been in Dungarven with my brother John to witness Antrim beating Waterford convincingly on their own patch so it was job done.
With success comes expectation of more success and when newly promoted Antrim were paired with division 1 giants Armagh at the Athletic grounds today, like many other Antrim supporters I suspect, I was hoping that we could cause a major upset and for a while we matched the Orchard in most departments.
Goals win games and in the end Armagh hit us with four of them. Their second came from a penalty that might have been avoided and at that stage we might have had a goal of our own and possibly a penalty of our own.
It wasn’t to be however and in the end Armagh’s experience of playing at a much higher level told but when the disappointment of today’s defeat fades we will look back with a lot of satisfaction on what we did achieve.
Division 3 football awaits us next year and I have no doubt that the present squad can survive in the higher grade and possibly push for promotion again.
It may be over for Antrim’s senior footballers this but not for the U20’s, the Minors and the Antrim hurlers as the season continues at breakneck speed.
The U20 hurlers play Laois on Tuesday night at Pairc Tailteann, the Minor hurlers play Meath in Dundalk on Wednesday night, the U20 footballers play Fermanagh at Brewster Park on Friday night and the senior hurlers play Laois at Parnell Park on Saturday.
To Enda McGinley and his backroom team and to the Antrim footballers I say, well done. I have enjoyed the journey with you this year and hope to see you all back in action in 2022 as we taste life for the first time for a while in division 3.
For now lets take a look back at some of today’s action on and off the field at the Athletic Grounds