After Saturday’s thrilling win over Cavan on Saturday I spoke to Antrim manager, Andy McEntee. The former Meath man was obviously delighted by his side’s performance and the result on the day and was only too willing to share his thoughts on the game, on the rest of the league campaign and just where he though Antrim football was at and is going after his first year in charge
Andy McEntee Interview
Saffron Gael: Andy thank you first of all for agreeing to speak to us and congratulations on securing division 3 status for next year with that splendid win over Cavan. What were your thoughts going into that game and your feelings after that win?
Andy McEntee: It was hard to know exactly where the lads were at after the heavy defeat to Westmeath last day out coupled with the large amount of injuries we had. I suppose we really tried to focus on getting a performance from the lads and let’s see where that gets us. We knew that the Westmeath game didn’t represent where we have been in the majority of games in the league to date and just tried to get back to doing the right thing and showing the right attitude. We were all delighted with the game but also with the way the lads played the game. They showed great character- especially when we conceded the second goal. I know everyone was thinking “here we go again” but to go up the field and get the last score was huge.
Saffron Gael: As a photographer-reporter and an ardent Antrim supporter I’ve been through the wide range of emotions that probably you and your backroom staff have experienced this year. There were the games where we played well in spells and actually outplayed Offaly for half a game, Down for 50 odd minutes and Fermanagh for a similar period of time and as I look this morning at this weekend’s fixtures and our trip to Longford I’m thinking we could have been aiming for promotion if things had went our way. What’s your thoughts?
Andy McEntee: Absolutely agree. The truth is we could very possibly be sitting on 8 points and even 10 points going into the last game where we would be playing for promotion. But that’s how tight the league is and the importance of playing to the final whistle. We need to get used to winning and a lot of the panel are relatively new to inter-county football. The lesson is plain and simple – you have to keep your focus and play to the end. Experience plays a big role and perhaps you need to go through those heart breaking losses to get hardened to the reality of sport at this level.
Saffron Gael: When I looked at Saturday’s starting line-up against Cavan the thought occurred to me that perhaps we were holding a few back with the thought that Longford was going to be a must win for us and to be honest I wasn’t looking forward to that trip if that had been the case. Having attended the Offaly, Down and Fermanagh games, and given the fact that we lost so heavily in Mullingar I had a feeling that we might come up against an over confident Cavan and that we could get a result. What’s your thoughts on it?
Andy McEntee: I can see where you were coming from but the truth is that any of the lads that were left out of starting line-up were left out for a reason, they were injured. I suppose there was always the possibility that Cavan might have underestimated us, which was understandable given the score-line v Westmeath but we could only control how we approached the game and as you would have seen, anyone who wore an Antrim jersey on Saturday went out to win the game.
Saffron Gael: The trip to Longford doesn’t have the same significance as what it would have had if we had lost to Cavan. Will you see it as an opportunity to give some of the fringe player’s game time or with the championship just a few weeks away or do you see it as an opportunity to build further confidence in the run up to that one?
Andy McEntee: It’s an important game for us in that we want to get used to winning. We haven’t decided on a line up yet but it would be harsh not to reward the lads who played so well on Saturday.
Saffron Gael: You came into the Antrim job not knowing too much about Antrim players and deprived of quite a few of the more experienced players from previous years. I know you carried out quite a few trials and training sessions and had a couple of run outs in the McKenna Cup in a relatively short time. I thought at the beginning of this year’s league campaign when I looked at the fixtures that division 3 survival would be success and we have achieved that and might have had much more. What do you think?
Andy McEntee: There is no doubt that survival was hugely important for the group and for Antrim football. However I would have to say that I fancied our chances of getting promoted at the start of the campaign and as the games have shown, it wouldn’t have taken an awful lot more for us to be in division 2 next year. Having said that, we still have a lot of football to play and a lot of work to do.
Saffron Gael: Finally Andy give us your thoughts on how the season has turned out to date and how you see Antrim football progressing in the coming season. Your thoughts on the forthcoming Ulster Championship game away to Armagh and your thoughts on the development of the side in your first year in charge?
Andy McEntee: They say that the tables don’t lie but I do feel that they don’t tell the full story either. There is no doubt that we let a couple of games slip that would have put a totally different look on the league campaign. We have been hit with a large number of injuries in the last month, at one stage we had 15 out of 37 players out injured, but as you have seen from the Cavan game it gave us the opportunity to look at players who might not have played otherwise.
That can only be of benefit to us in the long term. Looking forward to the Armagh game we would hope to have a full hand to play with and hopefully be in a position to put in the type of performance that we are capable of. I think the lads have put in a huge amount of work to date and they have developed physically as a result. However we are definitely playing catch up in this area and it will be vital that they continue this development throughout the rest of the year so that we can come back stronger next year. It will be vital to increase the quantum of players capable of playing at this standard.
Saffron Gael: We at the Saffron Gael thank Andy McEntee for taking the time to speak to us and wish our footballers all the best in Longford on Sunday and in their forthcoming championship game away to Armagh.
Despite finishing just clear of relegation it has been an exciting season for me personally, a season of what might have been rather than the one it is. It’s not over yet and I’m personally looking forward to the visit to Armagh where I know, we will be massive underdogs.
If we can put all the best phases of our play in games throughout the league together at the Athletic Grounds then we might not be too far away.
In the meantime we wish Andy and his backroom team all the best in the future. It seems to me that we are a project in progress and I’ve been impressed by the buy-in to that project and I believe the future can be bright for Antrim football if that buy-in continues.