National Hurling League Divsion 2A
Wicklow v Antrim
Sunday, Arklow, 2pm
BY RONAN SCOTT
Ryan Elliott says that the bond on the Antrim hurling team is as good as it has ever been.
In his four years as part of the squad, Elliot has seen the team grow together.
“We have got more players back this year. There are a few St John’s players, a few Rossa players and then some boys from North Antrim clubs.
“Darren has brought in all the players that he wanted which is good.
“There are a good few in there who weren’t playing before.”
The Darren to which he refers is Darren Gleeson, the former Tipperary goalkeeper who has transitioned from Antrim coach to Saffrons manager this season. He is focused on getting the dynamics of the team right. For example, Johnny Campbell of Loughgiel has come in to take the training.
“Darren has taken a back seat and Johnny is coaching the team.
“Darren sees the whole training from a different perspective. He can see the whole thing.
“Johnny is in there as trainer and he is top class. He has been very good.”
What has impressed Elliott is how Gleeson has dealt with players.
“When he came into the team he said that he wanted to create a club atmosphere. He has done that. There is a good bond between everyone. It is going well.
“We see each other most nights so that is how the bond is built.”
When Darren first joined the county as a trainer back when Liam Sheedy was there, Elliott got first hand coaching from the former Tipperary coach.
Gleeson was able to impart his wisdom from his county days, and Elliott said that it was a fantastic experience.
It shows just how much impact that Gleeson has had on the team that Director of hurling Neal Peden put the Tipp man into the management role, so he could progress the team further.
They have set some goals this year.
“Our target is the league. We haven’t thought about any thing other than that.
“It is going to be tough. We have got Offaly, Kerry and Meath. They are all going to be tough games. We just have to win every match.”
Last year, Antrim were also targetting promotion out of division 2A. But fell short, losing two of their five games.
So what is so different this year?
“Last year we didn’t have the Cushendall players. So that set us back,” Elliott said.
“There were maybe five or six who were on the team. We didn’t get a good start and we were on the back foot.”
The Saffrons lost their opener to Kerry, beat Meath by a point in round two, but when they lost to Westmeath in round three their hopes were gone.
Wicklow is a good start for them. They are just up from division 2B, and while they will be confident, this is a game that Antrim will be hoping to win.
“The league is so important. We want to get up with the big boys,” Elliott said.