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15th Jul 2022

Why Andy McEntee couldn’t refuse the opportunity to manage Antrim

Lee Costello

It’s a bigger job than it may appear.

Andy McEntee may not have ended his Meath career the way he wanted, and the disappointment of the 2022 campaign will unfortunately blur the successful times he had at the helm of his county.

In 2018, a rejuvenated and energetic Meath side met Tyrone in the qualifiers and they took the Ulster team right to the trenches, giving them every bit as good as they got, matching them all over the pitch.

Only for a very late Cathal McShane point right at the death, the Royals would have been through to the next round, instead of that year’s All-Ireland finalists.

What followed was promotion into Division One and as they were doomed to play in Leinster, their provincial campaign often meant that they would last in the race until they drew Dublin.

Following bizarre and poorly managed county board decisions, McEntee was left with an impossible task this season, and it didn’t end as he had hoped.

Despite saying a few weeks ago that he couldn’t see himself managing another county, he has since been announced as the new man in charge of Antrim, following Enda McGinley’s departure.

With so many reasons not to go back into inter-county management – not least because of the horrid and constant abuse he had to endure on social media – why did the Saffrons prove too good an opportunity to turn down?

Well firstly, as he said himself, McGinley and his coach Stephen O’Neill have already done a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of changing the culture, raising the standards and bringing some belief back into the county.

Casement Park finally looks set to be made, so a new home stadium right at the capital of the north will be the epicentre of the county from here on – all factors that he details in an interview with Jerome Quinn.

When you look at the club scene and see clubs like Cargin, St Galls, Creggan and Lamh Dhearg – the players they possess, the talent that’s on display, and just how much football means to this county, it’s clear to see that Antrim is brimming with potential.

If Derry were a sleeping giant, woken by the heavy and demanding footsteps of Rory Gallagher, then Antrim is a titan that has been in an induced coma for years.

The county has everything needed to be successful, but the structures around it, the lack of belief and backing have all held them back.

The times are changing though, and for anyone wondering why McEntee could be so easily enticed to come out of what looked like retirement from the inter-county game, it’s because he can see the promise that the Saffrons hold.

Above all else, he obviously believes that he can be the person to nudge them in the right direction, and if he is successful then be sure to keep an eye out for Antrim, because this project will snowball at a rapid pace.

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