BY RONAN SCOTT
National League Camogie Division two group three
Laois v Antrim
Sunday, Abbeyleix GAA grounds Laois
Despite the limited practice Paul McKillen feels optimistic about Antrim Camogs chances this season.
McKillen is the new joint manager of the Saffrons this year, taking the team along with Jim McKernan.
They have only had a couple of friendlies and a few weeks training, and they are working witha panel of 23.
Yet McKillen has ambitions.
“We have to be realistic with our goals. My target for the league would be to get to a semi-final. That will be tough to do as there are good teams there like Tipperary, Laois and Dublin.
“After that our target would be to win the Ulster Championship.
“We have started late, but we have had a good response from the girls.”
Pat Ryan was manager last year, but he has returned to Limerick.
McKillen is well placed to take the team. His daughters played camogie, and he has made sure to keep an eye on the county as the years have went on.
Last year’s campaign ended in a bit of acrimony.
But McKillen said that he and Jim McKernan have no interest in what happened before.
“We told the girls that whatever happened in the past stays in the past. We don’t care about that.”
What they do want is to grow the numbers of the squad. They have just 23 players on the team, and they are all those who answered the blanket statement put out to clubs asking for all those who are interest to come along to training. But McKillen said that that number could grow as there are players who are hoping to have time freed up later in the year.
The team has been drawn from all the usual clubs; Loughgiel, Ballycastle, Dunloy, Portglenone, Bridini Og and Randalstown. They haven’t yet heard from anyone from Cushendall or Ahoghill.
But McKillen said there’s still time.
“We’ve not closed the door yet. Everyone will get their chance. We are hoping to increase the panel to 26.”
There is also the opportunity to field a second team in the championship, though McKillen is not sure if he will have the squad to do that. But it remains an option.
The players who have been there are doing well.
“I have been overwhelmed by the response. They have put in a good shift.”
The key players who have returned this year include Niamh Donnelly from Ballycastle, Maeve Connolly, Chole Drain and Katie McAuley (Carey).
While they are the more established players, McKillen said developing a squad is important.
“My hope for the league would be to get a settled team. We have to have replacments for all the playerse in case of injury so that we can compete in the league, Ulster and All-Ireland campaign.”