Peter Healy of Antrim during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Peter Healy of Antrim during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Healy hopes Antrim footballers can inspire next generation

By John Harrington

Antrim captain Peter Healy hopes a successful Tailteann Cup campaign for the Saffrons can help inspire a new generation of footballers in the county.

They got off to the perfect start last weekend with a 3-18 to 2-12 opening round victory over Leitrim and will hope to build on it when they travel to play Wexford in Round 2 on Saturday.

Considering the county’s population, Antrim arguably punch below their weight when it comes to Gaelic football.

But Healy believes the Tailteann Cup provides an opportunity to win some hearts and minds and lay the foundation for a brighter future.

“What we are trying to do, and I think the Tailteann Cup is a great opportunity, we are trying to build every year to give the young lads and girls in Antrim something to aspire to,” says Healy.

“The only way for these kids to want to play for Antrim is to see Antrim do well. It’s a burden we are taking on ourselves to really try and push Antrim on.

“It’s not about this year or next year, it’s about the next five, 10 years and really go and stabilise ourselves as a Division 3 team, hopefully stabilising ourselves as a Division 2 and kick on from there. It’s not an overnight job.”

Antrim GAA has put a lot of energy into Gaelfast in recent years, a new approach to reignite enthusiasm and involvement in Gaelic games in Belfast and across the county.

Healy believes a successful senior inter-county football team can give further impetus to the project.

“We are trying to do our bit as the county footballers, we are getting lads to contribute to these events. It’s been a couple of years. There’s a process there to try and get football more into schools in Antrim.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, but there has been good progress made.

“There is definitely a lot more football in the schools. There have been a good few events this year recently where even some of the lads were into primary schools doing their own GAA days and stuff, especially in areas of Belfast where soccer is predominantly the main sport, we really need to get the GAA going in those areas.

“Antrim has the population, absolutely, it’s about utilising that going forward hopefully we can get Casement going and we will have something to rally around and the future is hopefully bright for Antrim.”

Antrim manager Andy McEntee. 
Antrim manager Andy McEntee. 

In the short term, Healy believes manager Andy McEntee is the right man to unlock the potential of this Antrim team.

He was something of a surprise appointment a few weeks after leaving the Meath hot-seat, and didn’t take long to win over the Antrim dressing-room.

“All the lads love him. He’s been there and he’s done it all. He brings great experience like.

“He brings something different to what Enda McGinley brought. He is trying to play physical football, he is playing big lads down the middle. He recalled Jack Dowling into the panel.

“He’s had a great impact on some of the games. He is a huge man.

“We are trying to utilise big Ruairir McCann and Pat Shivers at full forward, as well as the running game we have around the middle.

“Look, a lot of lads love him. The training is very good.”