THE novel Ulster football final pairing of Antrim and Tyrone on Sunday week will literally pit family against family.
Antrim’s forward duo Michael and Tomas McCann are brothers-in-law of All Star Tyrone midfielder Enda McGinley.
To complicate matters further Antrim wing-back Tony Scullion has also married into the McCann family and has established a solid friendship with McGinley too. Speaking in Dublin yesterday where he picked up his Vodafone Footballer of the Month award for June, Antrim full-forward Michael McCann admitted family ties will have to be severed for a while.
“Enda is married to a sister of mine, she’s a Saffron through and through and she’s been told that,” smiled McCann. “It’ll be hard for her on Sunday week, it’ll be hard him, it’ll be hard for us all. But if Antrim weren’t playing then Tyrone would be the team I would support due to the simple fact that you like to see Enda playing well and doing well, that’s natural enough.
“Come the Ulster final it’ll be tough and uncompromising and everybody will be doing what they have to do and everybody will be pushing it. For 75 minutes we’re just going to have to try to forget about the links. Hopefully he does well but hopefully we win.”
Asked if he’ll be having breakfast with McGinley on the morning of the game McCann smiled: “No, and he might not be coming around afterwards either!”
McCann said the Antrim players are trying to enjoy the run up to their first Ulster final since facing Derry in 1970. For one player in particular, Niall McKeever, it could be his last final.
Midfielder McKeever and Michael’s younger brother, half-forward Tomas, attended Ricky Nixon’s Aussie Rules trial camp last year and McKeever has since agreed a two-year deal with Brisbane Lions.
He’ll play out the season for Antrim before heading Down Under and Michael admitted it’s a major loss to the county.
“Against Cavan, Niall was absolutely immense, I would honestly say that I’ve never seen fielding like it on a county stage in a long, long time,” continued McCann.
“This last six or seven years inter-county football has been a breaking ball game. It was great to see that standard of clean catching. It’s an art in itself.
“He’s come on really well and has got his (AFL) contract, I think he’s right to take it. Everyone deserves their chance to do something they love and I think he’s dead right.”
Meanwhile, Waterford hurler John Mullane received the Vodafone Hurler of the Month award for June following his displays against Limerick. He wasn’t present to pick up the award but a Vodafone spokesman confirmed this was not as a result of the Gaelic Players Association’s directive that those involved in Sunday’s Munster hurling final avoid media engagements with broadcast partners of the GAA.
According to the spokesman Mullane’s absence was not linked to the GPA’s protest action and the forward has committed himself to attending their next ceremony.