THE Nationwide League season could also be upon us, however new Antrim soccer boss Andy McEntee continues to be rebuilding the spine of the group as they host Offaly of their Division Three opener.
The dimensions of the rebuilding job in Antrim is more likely to be larger than anybody anticipated, with McEntee searching for a brand new quantity three, a brand new quantity six, a brand new centre-forward and striker, whereas additionally finishing up some midfield operations.
The Johnston brothers – Ricky and Martin – have stepped down from the panel. Mick and Tomas McCann – each with accidents – will not be again for the brand new season.
Their Cargin clubmate James Laverty, who was heart again final season, has retired from the inter-county scene and veteran Lamh Dhearg frontman Conor Murray shouldn’t be anticipated to characteristic in 2023.
Antrim misplaced back-to-back McKenna Cup video games to Armagh and Cavan and so they’ve since managed to shoehorn in a pair of problem matches, the newest being towards Wicklow at Dundalk final Sunday, the place reviews recommend issues are taking form regardless of accidents to a couple protagonists.
The time-frame below the break up season format is desperately tight for inter-county managers and tighter once more for brand new inter-county managers who’re nonetheless attending to grips with their sources.
A no-nonsense determine who spent six years together with his native Meath, McEntee makes no secret of the truth that he would have cherished to see extra video games below his belt and Antrim’s belt forward of the Offaly recreation, who pulled out of the O’Byrne Cup as a result of tight timeframe and Louth pulling the pin out for them.
“It’s usually mentioned that it’s going to take you a 12 months or two to determine precisely what you will have,” says McEntee.
“I’ve a good suggestion. Positive, your concepts change over the course of problem video games and McKenna Cup video games. However we’ve not had sufficient video games but.
“The thought of not having the ability to play problem video games earlier than the start of January is ridiculous. You then attempt to crush three or 4 video games within the house of 10 or 12 days and it is no marvel groups get injured and it is no marvel managers have mentioned, ‘This is not value it.’
“I do know it did not occur with the McKenna Cup as a result of it is all the time been handled a bit bit extra severely than our counterparts in different counties.
“However I believe each supervisor and each group would in all probability admire the chance to play extra video games within the month of December when it isn’t so busy.
“You additionally throw in Sigerson Cup matches. However look, it’s what it’s, you get injured in these video games. We picked up a couple of towards Cavan sadly and also you attempt to shake issues up a bit extra however it’s the identical for everybody.
Cathal Hynds of Con Magee’s and Joe Finnegan of St Brigid’s have typically taken the positions of full-back and centre-back within the pre-season.
Conor Stewart is match once more after lacking most of final season’s marketing campaign below former boss Enda McGinley, and ‘Rossa playmaker Dominic McEnhill has been given loads of taking part in time and will begin at Corrigan Park on Sunday.
Aghagallon’s Oisin Lenehan, who carried out nicely in pre-season, is injured on Sunday, as is Creggan’s Kevin Small.
Nonetheless, Marc Jordan, Dermot McAleese and Patrick McBride belong to the extra skilled core of gamers and are match to play.