By Niall Gartland
THE Tailteann Cup has thankfully avoided been deemed a Mickey Mouse competition, and Antrim footballer Marc Jordan is among those who have been pleasantly surprised by how the competition has unfolded.
Westmeath emerged as outright winners in the competition’s inaugural season last year, sparking jubilant celebrations in county town Mullingar in the days that followed.
Jordan believes the addition of a group stage format will only improve the competition further, and he’s looking forward to getting started in Antrim’s group stage opener against Leitrim this weekend.
“Personally I like the Tailteann Cup. The likes of myself, Paddy McBride and Ryan Murray have had a few heated debates, but realistically, at this point in time, it’s Antrim’s only opportunity to play into the summer months and have the opportunity of playing a big game at Croke Park.
“Hopefully we can go on a bit of a run and the good thing about the competition is that you’re still getting exposed to good teams – the likes of Cavan, Down, Meath, Offaly and so on.
“I think the format is better this year as well, you’ve a guaranteed three games and that’ll allow us to get a bit of momentum behind us.
“We’ve been working on getting ourselves right and we’ve had a few productive challenge games so we’re looking forward to getting started. We’d really love to get a big day out in Croke Park as a curtain-raiser to an All-Ireland quarter-final or semi-final, that’s as much of an incentive as the holiday on offer for the winners.”
Jordan was one of Antrim’s best performers on an otherwise disappointing day out in the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship. There’s no skirting around the issue – it was a miserly enough effort but at least they have ample opportunity to get back on the wagon with group stage clashes against Leitrim, Fermanagh and Westmeath coming down the line.
“We were very disappointed by the Armagh game, we talked in the weeks beforehand about putting in a performance but we just never got it.
“What disappointed us was that we didn’t really ask any questions of them. Even when we got a goal in the second-half, they bounced back with three points straightaway. We were a bit standoffish and when you concede 20 points you’re never likely to win.
“At the same time Antrim are no bad side. They put away Down and Cavan comfortably as well, but I don’t think the media was as hard on those sides as they were on us.”
Antrim won’t need reminding that they were knocked out of the Tailteann Cup at the first time of asking by Leitrim, marking the end of Enda McGinley and Stephen O’Neill’s tenure in charge. Revenge isn’t a motivating factor leading into their repeat meeting this weekend, however.
Lamh Dhearg clubman Jordan said: “It was just one of those days really, nothing went right for us at all.
“I think we knew ourselves we weren’t as bad as that game suggested. Everything clicked for Leitrim. We nearly came back in the second-half but to be honest we wouldn’t have deserved the win and it was such a flat end to the season. I wouldn’t say this is about revenge but it’s a good opportunity for us that will hopefully set us up for five or six games over the summer months.”