Sunday 17 December 2017

'A win would turn our season around completely' - Carson

Cushendall’s Conor Carson does not support the idea of an All-Ulster Hurling selection. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Cushendall’s Conor Carson does not support the idea of an All-Ulster Hurling selection. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

You can see his temperature rise when the possibility of an all-Ulster hurling selection is mentioned yet again.

It's three years since Donal Óg Cusack first floated the idea but time doesn't seem to have softened the Antrim view on the topic, if Conor Carson's thoughts are anything to go by.

The Saffrons have slipped further in the mean time, falling out of the Leinster round-robin stages 12 months ago when current Clare selector Cusack stated that "Team Antrim is not working, I think Team Ulster is the way".

With Antrim slipping out of the race for Liam MacCarthy there seemed to be more credence in the argument but Cushendall's Carson (right) is not a fan and would not make himself available, and believes many others would do the same.

"I think it's a lot of rubbish, I wouldn't be playing on it to be honest. It's completely unpractical, where's an Ulster team going to train? A province the size of Ulster, its just ludicrous from the outset I think. I know it came from 'The Sunday Game' one evening.

"It was an off-the-cuff remark on a live TV show that's been going since. I think it's ludicrous. I wouldn't think many other players would be interested in playing either."

Antrim's wheels threatened to completely come off in the spring when a disastrous campaign in the league's third tier, winning two out of five, led to the resignation of Loughgiel Shamrocks' All-Ireland club-winning manager PJ O'Mullan.

That came after Kevin Ryan called time on his three-year reign the previous year and in less than a year they were facing a third change of management. But rather than cripple them, it has helped galvanise them.

The four-man team of former Saffron stars Terence "Sambo" McNaughton, Dominic McKinley, Neal Peden and Gary O'Kane took charge and despite some patchy form they find themselves in Croke Park today.

"They are four very passionate hurling people, they are just hurling crazy," Carson says. "They're very good coaches as well, I don't know if they have a rota but I don't think the same coach has taken the start of a session two times in a row.

"They get the best out of you, they know what they want and they are not afraid to tell you as well, which may have been lacking previously. If you need a dressing down they are not afraid to give a dressing down and I think they'd be great candidates to stay on."

A direct escape route from the Christy Ring Cup is now staring them in the face and despite a turbulent year they could achieve their main aim of 2016 if they can overcome surprise finalists Meath.

"We are in the Christy Ring on our own merit which is a bit of a contradiction, but that is the way it is. We weren't good enough, we didn't play well enough when our backs were to the wall last year," he says.

"The league was very disappointing for us, but if you were given the choice in December to win the league or the Christy Ring you would pick the Christy Ring.

"The main goal is to win the Christy Ring to get back into the Leinster qualifying group and it can change the season for us completely and take a real bad looking season and put a nice gloss on it."

The towering forward, who debuted in 2011, comes into the final in top form and hopes to make amends for St Patrick's Day heartbreak with Cushendall. But he knows the hot favourites will have to start playing like that title suggests.

"We've hardly put two good halves together in the same game. We've been still sitting in the car park while the other team has been getting ahead of us and we've had to wheel it back at half time," he says.

"If we put two halves together we should do enough but it'll be a real battle."

Irish Independent

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