McBride has his eyes on the prize

Antrim are on a roll in this year’s Tailteann Cup, and Patrick McBride says they’re determined to go all the way in the competition.

By Shaun Casey

PATRICK McBride has been one of Antrim’s most loyal servants for over a decade but has little to show for his dedication. The St John’s man has been through many dark days with the Saffrons, but the Tailteann Cup offers a glimmer of hope.

Antrim are competing against teams at their own level and every time they go out onto the field, they feel they can win. That’s not always the case of course but playing at their own grade offers Antrim the best chance of success. And McBride’s best chance of capturing some silverware.

They believe they can go all the way and showed real spirit to edge past Fermanagh in last weekend’s round three tie to guarantee their place in the last eight.

“The goal is to win the Tailteann Cup,” said McBride.

“There’s no talk about competing in it or building or anything like that, we want to win a trophy. This is my 12th year with Antrim, and I haven’t won a trophy, so I completely welcome this competition.

“It’s not as if you’re just thrown into it because you’re from Antrim or anything and that’s the beauty of it. We got your chance to get promoted from the league to get into the Sam Maguire and we didn’t do it.

“You have a chance to get to the provincial final and we didn’t do it so we’re in the Tailteann Cup because of previous performances, but it’s still something we want to win. It’s a great standard and great teams in it.

“Fermanagh are a great side and the other sides that we’re going to be playing in this competition are big teams too. The goal is to win it and that’s what we’re aiming for.”

Last year’s winners Westmeath gained access to the Sam Maguire race this season and while they lost to both Armagh and Galway, they have shown that they can compete at the highest level. For McBride, that provides a bit of inspiration.

“I haven’t looked at Westmeath but when you think about it, there’s no excuse for us not to play like that. The number of times that we’ve played teams, whether it’s challenge games or championship games in the past, you can say you can compete with them, but I’m fed up with saying we can compete with teams, I want to beat teams.

“Its’s just getting that mentality right that anyone you know you can beat anyone that’s in front of you. You don’t need to say you will win but it’s about knowing that you can win, that we can go on and win this trophy.”

Antrim showed real character to battle back from four down at the start of the second half against Fermanagh, and goals from Adam Loughran, Oisin Doherty and Ruairi McCann turned the tide for Andy McEntee’s men.

The sides were evenly matched towards the end of the game but a fortuitous goal from substitute Doherty helped the Saffron’s see the game out.

“It was good craic, there’s no point in winning easy!” laughed McBride. “Sometimes it can be a wee bit stressful in the end, but it was a great match. Both teams wanted to win and needed to win to get that quarter-final spot so there was an edge at the end.

“We just showed how much we wanted it and how hard we work. At the end of the day, it’s hard work that wins a match when it comes to those conditions.

“There’s a bit of game management in it but ultimately it comes down to hard work. We worked hard and we got our reward. They got that goal at the start of the second half, and we just started the second half flat.

“But it shows the character that we have to come back into it. A lot of teams would have wilted, and they could have seen the game out, but we just continued to work hard and finally clawed out way back into it.

“We’re never beat – we have a team full of lads who’ll never give up and work to the end for each other and that’s what we done.

“I know that goal (Doherty’s), you could say it was fluky but the more I play this game the more you realise that you create your own luck. Luck comes to you when you work hard, you never scrape through lucky when you don’t deserve it.

“There’s a lot of times you don’t work hard, and you don’t get that result because it might hit off the post for the other team or something. It was a big relief to see that goal going in because you knew you had that cushion, and you had the match won.

“The heat and everything, you still need to get yourself up the pitch and the only way to do that is character. All the lads are working hard for each other, we always back each other up and there’s something building here. Hopefully we can push on now.”

Antrim just about avoided relegation from Division Three, finishing in sixth position and fell at the first hurdle in the Ulster Championship, losing to eventual Ulster finalists Armagh. But McBride insists his side are learning all the time and have turned a corner.

“You can look at results and the league looked unsuccessful but it’s our first year together, a new team, new manager and it was our own fault. The players on the pitch just messed about towards the end of matches.

“We weren’t happy with our performance against Armagh, you can say it’s a Division One team, but we were just flat and didn’t do ourselves justice. We’re now showing what we’re capable of and we’ve put together three brilliant performances.

“It came down to mentality. I’m not saying if we had a different mentality that we would have won the match (against Armagh) because you can’t talk like that until you beat those teams.

“But we haven’t played teams of that standard throughout the year and it’s a big step up. It was a mentality of going out and maybe trying to be too cagey and trying not to be beat rather than just going out and having a crack.

“I think we’ve learned from it and that’s what we’ve done three games in a row now. You can say it’s only the Tailteann Cup but that’s our level at the minute and we’ve had a chance to get into the Sam Maguire so you can’t be complaining.”

To win the Tailteann Cup, Antrim are going to have to see off the challenges of some really top teams, likes Cavan, Down and Meath, but they’ve done brilliantly to date and will enjoy home advantage in the quarter-finals.

McBride, who has played every minute of Antrim’s Tailteann Cup campaign, puts it down to the effort that goes into the group, from the players, manager and backroom team.

“This team is full of good people,” explained the 28-year-old. “The manager is a good person, the backroom team are all good people and having those types of people around you, you know that they’re going to work for you, and you’ll work for them.

“Nobody ever wants to let anyone down and there’s a real camaraderie here and a togetherness and you can see that when we’re playing with each other.

“If there’s a mistake made, you can give off to someone but it’s coming from someone who cares, and everyone understands that.

“Andy takes no crap an, there’s no excuse that you’re tired or no excuse for not running, he’ll tell you and he expects the highest standard possible.

“You can be brilliant at shooting, passing and the skills, but he just wants us to be the best at the things that don’t require skill.

“That’s the way we approach a game and a lot of that comes from him. There are good people here and good leaders in this team that will push stuff like that, so he’s helped that a lot.”

Antrim await the winners of the preliminary quarter-finals and will be a match for whoever comes through to the last eight. Last Sunday’s victory will fill them with confidence, and they’ll be eyeing up some Tailteann Cup gold before the season is out.

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