Darren Gleeson: Antrim hurling boss calls on supporters to get behind team again

Darren Gleeson talks to his squad last month
Darren Gleeson was without a host of first-choice players for the League campaign with a number opting out of the squad for 2024 and others unavailable because of injury

Darren Gleeson has appealed to Antrim hurling fans to get behind his team again after what he described at a noticeable fall off in support amid the county's League struggles this year.

Antrim's Division One campaign ended with a fifth straight defeat as Tipperary won 2-21 to 0-12 in Belfast.

The Saffrons were again without a host of players but Gleeson was also concerned by the stay away supporters.

"It's time for people to get back with their feet," insisted the Antrim boss.

"You need to get back in behind it for these big games [coming up in the Leinster Championship].

"We have Wexford coming here, you [also] have Carlow and Galway which are all massive matches and get down the road to support us on 21 April against Kilkenny.

Kilkenny Leinster opener 'huge opportunity'

"Antrim against Kilkenny, there's a huge opportunity for us to play against last year's All-Ireland Finalists. So we need the support in behind us as well. I just felt that was missing through the league campaign.

"The players and everyone stuck with it but the support disappeared."

This season's League campaign was always going to be tough for the Saffrons with talisman Neil McManus having returned from the inter-county game and several players, including Dunloy quartet Eoin O'Neill, Ryan Elliott, Seaan Elliott and Keelan Molloy opting out for 2024, along with Domhnall Nugent and Joe Maskey.

To make matters worse, Gleeson has had more than a dozen members of his squad on the treatment table and unavailable during stages of the League.

Despite being understrength themselves, Tipperary were always in control at Corrigan Park as they led led 1-10 to 0-4 before going to complete a 15-point victory to secure their place in the League semi-finals.

Antrim's Ryan McGarry attempts to halt Tipperary's Eoghan Connolly at Corrigan Park
Darren Gleeson said he couldn't fault Antrim's effort against Tipperary

Gleeson said he couldn't fault his team's effort on Saturday.

"They were trying hard. Tipperary were just a step above us quality wise.

"It was probably level enough possession wise and they we got to a certain section of the field and we were closed up and didn't execute the basics.

"You can have lots of excuses, the rain and stuff like that and terrible conditions. What can I take out of it? There are guys there trying their best.

"You just have to bring it back to the training field on Monday night and build on it come championship.

"We've 35 or 36 days to get bodies right, get the players on the field and have a good go at the Leinster Senior Hurling."

'We'll have a right cut at some of the games'

Gleeson does believe Antrim will be considerably more competitive if they are able to get their injured players back on the field.

"The group know where we're at when you're on the training field with 18 to 20 players because you've 12 to 14 guys inside in the gym rehabbing.

"We're also trying to integrate some new players into the squad coming from straight club experience. The young guy in goals today Cormac McFadden hasn't played a club championship match and he played a National League match for the county today.

"You have to give those guys the space to breathe and to learn and develop and in fairness to them, they are.

"I can see the progress on the field. It just hasn't transcended into the National Hurling League yet.

"We know what's ahead of us and I think if we get our bodies on the field, we'll have a right cut at some of the matches there."