By Patrick McIlwaine
The appointment of Enda McGinley as Antrim’s new football team manager looks like a major scoop for the Antrim county board and has been positively greeted by those I have spoken to over the past few days.
A former All Ireland winner with Tyrone, McGinley takes up his first county appointment and brings an experienced and exciting backroom team with him to the Antrim post. The Errigal Ciaran man is joined by former Tyrone colleague, Stephen O’Neill and St. Gall’s All Ireland club championship winner, Sean Kelly and highly regarded coach, Stephen Quinn.
McGinley is married to Geraldine McCann, sister of Michael and Tomas McCann and says the family connections was certainly a factor in his application for the Antrim job and it is hoped he will be able to keep both players on board as he attempts to get Antrim promoted from division 4 after the Saffrons came close in the previous three season but failed to get across the line.
The former Tyrone star cut his teeth in management at Swatragh last season while Stephen O’Neill was in charge of Dungiven and it is believed that O’Neill will continue as Dungiven manager for the coming season with McGinley indicating that the dual role should not be a problem given the new split season format.
Sean Kelly is another strong appointment to the Antrim setup with the St. Galls man being a former Antrim player and one of the Saffrons outstanding performers for more than a decade. Kelly has also served his club as player manager and then manager for several seasons and will bring a wide knowledge of the club scene in Antrim to the table.
Promotion from division 4 will surely be the new manager’s first priority but as previous Antrim managers have found to their cost this is easier said than done. Antrim have performed reasonably well under Sean Kelly’s former St. Gall’s colleague Lenny Harbison for the past few years but just missed out in promotion when one more win would have seen them over the line.
Enda McGinley inherits a fairly young and skilful panel but it was their experienced players like Michael McCann and Paddy Cunningham that brought a bit of knowhow to the Antrim side at the end of the season and both were prominent players when Antrim took on Cavan in the opening round of this year’s Ulster championship in Breffni Park.
Antrim lost that game after leading by two points at half time but missed enough chances early in the second half to have won it including an excellent goal opportunity that might have brought a different result had it gone in.
Cavan came back strongly in the final quarter to win that game and as we now know, went on to win Ulster yesterday so it puts the Antrim performance into some perspective.
Promotion from division 4 will not come easily for Antrim with Louth, Leitrim and Sligo amongst the sides who will be vying for the two promotion spots but it is well within their reach. The new man in charge will undoubtedly be running his eye over additions to the Antrim panel during the club season and we at the Saffron Gael wish Enda and his backroom team all the best in 2021 and look forward to bringing you coverage of their games.