Declan Bogue Twitter
Sure, it would have been nice if a big star had been tossed back to Belfast in a sparkling new Casement Park. But in these times of plague and the untidy argument between various GAA factions over funding the project, Antrim had to get along and mend to accommodate their own teams.
The doing and mending, however, becomes the work that is in the Corrigan Park did not do it justice in the last few years.
The home of the St. John’s Club, which sends over 30 teams from the fields of soccer, hurling, camogie and women’s soccer, has been fundamentally redesigned. A brand new booth will be officially opened this weekend in time for Clare’s visit. The Division 1B National Hurling League will meet with Antrim tomorrow.
It’s a shame that there won’t be throaty voices from Belfast and the Glens yelling at their boys. As Antrim manager Darren Gleeson pointed out earlier this week, Belfast’s malls and beer gardens will be full, while the shouts of players will echo on a practically empty floor.
Corrigan Park itself has a rich history. In 1943, the County Hurlers defeated Galway and then Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Quarter and in the semi-finals to reach their first All-Ireland Final.
A year later, they actually hosted the All-Ireland Camogie Final, as well like 1946 and 1947, and became the unofficial home of the prestigious Camogie games of the time.
A few decades later, club member Andy McCallin, father of Antrim’s only football all-star, young Andy, came up with the idea in 1971 host the Club Masters’ Top Four Tournament in Ulster. It was later developed and turned into the Ulster Club Championship.
In recent years, and not with Casement Park, it has once again become the de facto home of the county’s senior teams.
It’s a role which the club enjoyed. The club’s current chairman is Collie Donnelly, who was the youngest chairman of Antrim before current incumbent Ciaran McCavana.
They brought all of their stewards there on Thursday night to do a run-through before tomorrow’s game. The county hurlers trained at the venue last Saturday and the county footballers paid a visit on Monday.
Clare comes around the panel with a lot of noise. Since Brian Lohan took over the reins, there has been an overwhelming stench between management and administration in the county.
Once upon a time, Lohan was the Clare full-back who won All Ireland titles in 1995 and 1997. He is one of only four Clare players to have played over 50 championship games and recognized as one of the most talented and feared full-backs of his generation.
Right behind him was that fireball of activity, Davy Fitzgerald in goal. But Davy’s father, Pat, has been the district secretary for decades and the relationship between him and Lohan has been extremely strained.
Lohan and Davy no longer talk, no longer shake hands when they meet on the sidelines.
As They faced each other in the second round of qualifying last year, Clare Fitzgeralds beat Wexford by seven points.
Fitzgerald was magnanimous after the defeat, but the online abuse of him and his father is now the subject of criminal proceedings.
A few weeks ago, former Clare captain and manager Anthony Daly had a lot of fun in his direct style about how things were done on his Irish Examiner column.
“Lohan has been up since his application for the senior -Job overcame one obstacle at a time, “he noted.
” The long-term stance of the Clare County Board executive is so narrow it can barely see out the window. “
Is inside the team bubbles however, life is different. Antrim manager Gleeson believes the Clare squad and management won’t take their focus off the job.
“A lot of players don’t even know what’s going on. They’re just so focused on what you’re doing. They just become insular about what your team goals are and that would be irrelevant to them when they get on the field. Totally irrelevant, “he said.
” I know a lot of the guys who deal with Clare would be a good bit near Shannon and you would know what’s going on.
“Clare would be fully focused on a great year. You got a big result against Wexford last year and you just couldn’t get it against Waterford. “
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