McCann embracing Tailteann Cup

By Michael McMullan

IT has been a busy month for Ruairí McCann but the Creggan man is already looking forward to Antrim’s Tailteann Cup campaign with enthusiasm.

The Saffrons welcome Tipperary to Corrigan Park on Sunday just five weeks after his biggest match, getting wed to his bride Niamh.

In the interim, Antrim exited the Ulster Championship at the hands of Down in a game they could’ve pulled out of the fire in Newry.

McCann ponders the chances Antrim missed with the balanced view of how Down could also have pulled away.

With the breeze at their back, they were underwhelming. Then, with the fat in the fire in the second half, the regrets came home to roost. In their spell of dominance, they took one point from five decent chances.

“We probably came away (from Páirc Esler) with a bit of a what-if story on that front,” McCann said. “If we had taken all of our opportunities we probably would have had them in difficulty with 50 or 55 minutes gone.”

Andy McEntee gave the squad the week off in the aftermath. There was a challenge game with Monaghan thrown in alongside some more club action.

Last season, the Tailteann Cup took Antrim all the way to a semi-final they will have regrets about. Meath hit a sizzling 1-7 without reply in the third quarter of their 2-16 to 2-14 win over the Saffrons.

The second tier competition hasn’t been everybody’s cup of tea. In some cases, club and a summer of travel will sit more prominent.

For Antrim, they bought into it last season and, as McCann explained, nothing has changed this time around.

“Aye, 100 per cent,” he said of their focus. “I think if you want to develop as a team you have to throw everything into it.

“If you have aspirations of being better and performing better than you did the previous year you have to develop.”

At the least, Antrim – a second seed – will have outings against Sligo and Wexford after Sunday.

“We were very fortunate last year with how we progressed in the competition,” McCann added. “You were getting five or six games and five or six games is an awful lot of development so we’ll be looking to progress as far as we can in the competition and develop more and more.”

Looking ahead, they’ll hope to have Aghagallon’s Ruairi McCann back after he was forced out of the Ulster Championship due to illness.

Paddy McAleer showed some glimpses when thrust into the action and his All Saints clubmate Kavan Keenan has had a solid first season.

The Antrim league progress was hampered by injuries to key players and McCann hopes the longer they can go into the Tailteann Cup, the stronger their hand will get.

“We’ve three or four ACLs from last year, Ruairi McCann (Aghagallon) has missed the majority of the league,” he added.

“Adam Loughran would have started most games last year and he’s been out. There’s Peter Healy as well, obviously captain of the team last year, who hasn’t played a minute so far. You’d hope that the further we can progress in the competition you can hopefully see some of those bodies back on the pitch again.”

They’re glad to have Tipperary at home. A scan of the record books and a peek into McCann’s memory throws up trips to Tipp.

“Any chance you get to have home advantage in championship matches, you want to make the most of it,” he said. “I suppose over the past couple of seasons, we’ve had good performances in Corrigan.

“We’re hoping for another big performance at the weekend and it will be good to get motoring again after the three to four-week break.”

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