ANTRIM star Neil McManus doesn’t want Saturday’s Leinster SHC victory over Laois to be a one-off.
The Ulster side joined the province in 2009 and the victory in Portlaoise marked their first win in the competition.
But McManus, man of the match in the weekend success, wants to build on this success.
“We banged on the door long enough and now that we’ve banged the door down, we’re in and we want to validate our position in Leinster. It wouldn’t have reflected well had we lost again but I felt our performances last year in the championship, when we accounted for two Leinster teams, Carlow and Dublin (in the qualifiers), merited inclusion.
“We could have beaten Offaly also but in the record books it doesn’t come up as ‘they were nearly beaten’.
“Either you win or you don’t win but we’ve won here today and it’s massive for our hurling.”
What made victory all the more remarkable was that the victors had four championship debutants — Chris McGuinness, Kevin Molloy, James Black and Conor McCann — in their side. Little wonder then that Antrim manager Dinny Cahill wore a broad smile in the aftermath.
“That shows that there are good players coming through. It was a cracking game of hurling from both teams but we were expecting that from Laois; we were expecting what we got from our own players as well. From the team that beat Dublin last year we were missing six players through injury and suspension, plus our top scorer Liam Watson and our full-back Cormac Donnelly. We’ve kept the good fellas and they’re knuckling down to the training, they’re doing everything we’re asking them to do.”
For Laois and manager Brendan Fennelly, of the famous Ballyhale hurling family, bitter disappointment.
“Antrim just about deserved their win. They missed very little, they picked off some great points. We were playing catch-up all the way through the second half and did well to be still within striking distance with a minute to go.
“Sean Burke’s shot (in the last minute) was only a foot wide, it could easily have been a draw. We didn’t get to the same pace as they did – playing with the breeze in the first half it took us quarter of an hour to settle, which we couldn’t afford, and it cost us dearly.
“Also, we lost two massive players through injury before the game started, our full back Brian Campion – who’s an outstanding player — and our centre forward Ger Reddin. Then we lost two more players at the beginning of the second half, Joe Fitzpatrick and Brian Dunne.”
However he insisted all is not lost: “We have lost a championship game but we are still in the championship — I would be hoping the lads will keep their heads up. A lot of things can still happen and Antrim proved that last year by getting beaten in Leinster and going through the back door and into an All-Ireland quarter final with Cork “There is a savage history in Antrim. They believed in themselves when it comes to championship hurling.
“We’re devastated. We had hope coming in, hope we would get the win and hope we would have Wexford here in two weeks’ time. But that is not to be, and we have to go the other route.”
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