By Kieran Lynch
WITH the Antrim Senior Hurling Championship beginning this weekend, Loughgiel Shamrocks manager Hugh McCann says that he and his management team will have a selection headache, with a number of players hoping to get a start in their opener against St Enda’s.
“There is a good buzz about the parish, as there always is coming up to the start of the Championship,” said McCann.
“Within the squad, we had about 37 or 38 players out on the field last night (Tuesday) and every one of them is pushing to get into that starting 15. You can feel the intensity of the players rising, and as a manager that’s a really good thing. Boys are trying to prove their worth.
“There is a real fight on for places. You have James McNaughton coming back from playing county, and he will start. But you have a whole lot of positions which are up for grabs, and that’s the message that we gave to our players.
“We had an in-house game, which was probably feisty enough to be honest, but that’s really good for us as the management team. But hopefully we can put the right 15 players on the pitch.”
Loughgiel are the in-form team in the county at the moment, as they claimed the Division 1A league title, with just one defeat from 15 games. However, McCann downplayed any notions of ‘momentum’ and instead he looked at the league as a means for blooding the stars of the future.
“I wouldn’t really say that it brings momentum,” said McCann.
“We were lucky, because we had a lot of talented young players, and we were able to give them experience at Senior hurling.
“It was really nice to win the league, there is no doubt about it, but it’s not the main focus at the end of the day.”
Intriguingly, Loughgiel concluded their league campaign against the same opposition whom they will open their Championship against, St Enda’s.
The Shamrocks came out on top 1-23 to 1-15 in that encounter three weeks ago, but McCann believes that the Championship will be a different animal.
“There are probably one or two things that we can take from that game. In the league, maybe boys don’t show their full hands as such, so come Championship it will be a different story. Especially as we play them in St Enda’s.
“St Enda’s are going to be difficult to beat, there is no question about that. They have been in the Senior Championship for quite a few years now, and in fairness to them, every year they keep improving and keep pushing on.”