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Burke says Antrim’s strength is their bond

KEHOE CUP FINAL

ANTRIM V OFFALY

Sunday, Pairc Tailteann, 2pm

ANTRIM will play their first final of the 2020 campaign on Sunday and based on the positive vibes coming from vice captain Paddy Burke, it may not be their last.

Burke explained that the work that Neal Peden and Darren Gleeson carried out last year, has continued into the new season.

Peden may have stepped aside to allow Gleeson to take full control, but the change in management has not adversely affected their approach.

“[Darren Gleeson] has been very good. He was in with us two years ago. He was in in a bigger capacity last year. He’s in charge now this year. Everyone is very
comfortable with him. He has a lot of experience and there is a lot of respect,” Burke said.

“He has put a good set up in place and it is all very professional.”

Last year Gleeson was the coach of the team. Now he is both the manager and coach, and has full control of his squad.

Brendan Murphy is in as support as strength and conditioning coach.

The emphasis on coaching and preparation is very professional according to Burke but it is very much a progression from last year.

The core group of players remain the same.

There have been some new addiitions to the team. Some from St John’s and the likes of Gerard Walsh from Rossa has joined the group.

“We have the best players in Antrim, which is good.

“The set up we have now is very enjoyable.

“You look forward to training because of the bond that you have with everyone.

“Last year was about putting the wheels in motion. There are a lot of young players and we were just looking forward to playing matches.”

In this year’s McGurk Cup, Antrim beat Armagh and Longford in the group stages.

Then they outscored Queen’s by 4- 26 to 0-11 in the semi-final.

Antrim were playing in the Kehoe Cup at the same time.

They beat Meath by 3-27 to 1-15, and Wicklow by 5-27 to 2-10 to earn their semifinal place. The semi-final was against Down, so the organisers took the result of the McGurk cup final as the semi-final result.

During the pre season competition there have been some fine performances from the likes of Conor Mc- Cann, James McNaughton and Dan McCloskey.

It’s notable that the team has been scoring well across the board, as everyone has chipped in with points.

That is a good sign going forward.

Antrim won and are now facing a Kehoe Cup final against Offaly.

The purpose of their Kehoe Cup run was clear for Paddy Burke.

“We want to go in ready for the league towards the end of January. At the moment we are just enjoying our training and enjoying playing matches. We want to get to the league with a solid bit of training done.”

Burke said that competition on the team is strong. There are lots of young players on team and a large squad of players all eager to get their place for the league.

“Darren has said that if you are playing well in training then you will get your chance. There are a lot of places up for grabs.

“It will be very difficult for him to pick a team at the moment. There are 30 boys there who are staking their place.”

The chance to do that comes on Sunday. They are playing Michael Fennelly’s team, who beat Meath by 8-18 to 3-18 in their semi-final. The Faithful have won three matches on the trot and they will fancy themselves to get another one in Pairc Tailteann.

“It is going to be a very good test for us,” Burke said.

“We have played a good few games in the pre season but this will be our toughest yet. We are looking forward to playing a team of Offaly’s standard. It will be a very good test. They are going very well at the moment.”

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