Simon McCrory: 'It's a really big prize'
By John Harrington
There’s more than just silverware on the line when Antrim and Carlow clash in Saturday’s Christy Ring Cup Final.
The winners will also claim the prize of qualification for the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship and a date with Laois in the preliminary round on June 24th.
Antrim captain Simon McCrory admits that prospect is a serious incentive going into Saturday’s match.
“I think for both teams, knowing that you are going into the qualifiers and getting a crack at them, it's a real incentive, a real big prize,” he said.
“Not only are you getting silverware, a trophy, but you are getting to go to the top level this year and it is a huge incentive. For myself it is a huge motivating factor and I am sure for Carlow it is the same.
“Both teams have played each other down through the years and it could be a really good summer for whoever comes out in the right end on Saturday, so definitely it's a huge motivating factor there.”
There's rarely much between these Antrim and Carlow teams when they meet, and that was the case again most recently in this year’s Allianz Hurling League Division 2A Final which Antrim won by three points.
McCrory knows that defeat will have Carlow all the more fired up to put one over on Antrim on Saturday.
“Especially after the league final, I said they would need no motivation to beat us after that,” he said.
“Again, we went down there and got a mighty result on the day down in Carlow. There was nothing in it, there was nothing in any of the games this year as the results will show and Carlow are the team that actually sent us down to the Christy Ring a couple of years ago, so it is nip and tuck.
“We have a lot of respect for Carlow, they have a lot of good players. Colm Bonnar is a very good manager, a lot of experience.
“They will be confident and they will believe they have the measure of us on the fourth time, but we are confident in our own preparations, confident in our own ability.
“What we have to do is play our own game and block out everything else.
“It's what we have been doing so far. In a Final, it is all on the day and in Croke Park, it can be a great place for some players, but for others it just doesn't work.”
McCrory’s commitment to the Antrim could never be questioned, but the county has struggled in recent years to consistently get their best hurlers on the pitch.
McCrory admits that’s still the case, and believes some simply aren’t willing to make the commitment when the county competes in the Christy Ring Cup rather than the All-Ireland Championship.
“It's definitely a bit factor and I am sure it is not a new thing, not just to Antrim. Player turnover is massive.
“There are players in my mind, I could definitely see them playing for Antrim in my mind and they are not playing.
“For whatever reason that might be, be it work, maybe they are a wee bit disillusioned and maybe they are happy with their club.
“Sometimes I think when you are coming from a so-called lesser county, playing in a so-called lesser competition, it is maybe more difficult to get players playing because maybe they can't see what benefit they get out of it.
“Sometimes I think the players' perception is that when you are away with the county, you are away from the club for a long time.
“There is a number of factors there, and I don't know how you address it with boys who are maybe not playing Division One hurling week in, week out.
“For me, to play county has to come from within and it has always been something I have wanted to do since I was a kid coming to Croke Park to watch Antrim teams play.
“I was thinking 'that looks class, I want to do that.'”