Fáilte chuig leinstergaa.ie - suíomh oifigiúil Comhairle Laighean CLG

Campbell Believing In Big

April 19th, 2024

By Kevin Egan

The Leinster Senior Hurling Championship, which gets underway this Sunday with three games in Kilkenny, Salthill and Wexford, is fascinating for a number of reasons.

Will Wexford continue their impressive league form under Keith Rossiter, particularly as a handful of more established players come back into the fold to boost the young panel which secured Division 1A hurling in 2025?

Galway haven’t won this championship since 2018 and have now lost three of the last four Leinster finals. A final round draw with Limerick proved that when they hurl at something close to their potential, Henry Shefflin’s side is capable of matching anyone – but can they hit those high notes consistently?

When Galway won that championship in 2018, Micheál Donoghue was manager. The All-Ireland winning coach hasn’t pushed Dublin on as much as he might have hoped, and pressure is mounting ahead of what looks like an absolutely crucial contest at ChadwicksWexford Park. And then there’s Kilkenny, who continue to be competitive, but after losing National League and All-Ireland finals in the last nine months, it almost feels as if retaining the Bob O’Keeffe Cup is essential for the Cats to settle their nerves.

For Carlow and Antrim however, it’s undeniable that most of the conversation will centre on the clash between the two counties at Corrigan Park on May 26th as a potential relegation decider.

Eoghan Campbell accepts that this will be the outside perspective, but the Cushendall man and Antrim stalwart has very different expectations for his county over the next five weeks.

A successful Championship is finishing in spot one, two or three for us” he said at the championship launch at the National Museum earlier this month.

Our first target is getting to a Leinster final, there’s no point in saying otherwise. People outside the camp and in Antrim probably don’t see that for us. They probably see us playing off against Carlow in the last game but that’s so far away from what we’re thinking. Our main thinking is we have Kilkenny away in the first group game and we need to start strong there, but our primary target is getting into a Leinster final, and after that it’s third. There’s no real talk of trying to stay up against Carlow in the last game. It’s not in our thinking.

At the best of times, that would be an optimistic prediction for any Antrim group. In 2024, given the incredible levels of player turnover, with a host of established players following legendary leader Neil McManus out the exit door for one reason or another, it looks positively fanciful. To put that in context, out of the 20 players that saw action in last year’s Leinster SHC draw with Dublin, just six (five starters and Rian McMullan, an injury time sub) also saw action in the league game between the two counties in Belfast.

Campbell feels however that those players needed the experience of the league, and while they were thrown in at the deep end, he believes that this will stand to the group over the upcoming provincial campaign.

We’ve had a lot of injuries from the starting team last year and we’ve been missing eight or nine through injuries or boys retiring. It was a bit of a baptism of fire for some of the new boys who’d come in, we’d probably rather have blooded them in in a few games here and there” he said.

Boys who have never seen county hurling will now know what’s ahead of them coming into the Leinster Championship where the step up is going to be another level again. In some ways it was a bad league but in other ways we were able to blood those players and get them in, move on from it and move on towards Leinster.

“We’re not thinking about who we don’t have in the panel, I’ve great faith in the players that are in there right now” he continued.

Boys retired, boys didn’t commit for whatever reason and that’s fine, people have other things going on in their life. The boys that are there are the boys you have to work with. We brought in some great young hurlers. We’ve brought in some U20s there for the Leinster Championship and they’ve been fantastic, really freshened up the squad. We need that in the county of Antrim, every year bringing in maybe one, two or three players in and getting them used to hurling against bigger, stronger men than they are for their clubs.

Throughout the spring, there were days that were encouraging, albeit heartbreaking, such as that Dublin clash in Corrigan Park. But there were harder lessons too. Galway also travelled to Belfast, and racked up a 2-35 to 1-13 win, and Campbell admitted that bouncing back from that took some mental resolve.

“It does have to be done, we’ve had days like that. There’s probably four or five in the team that have been there for a while in the older days, when it was a bit more of a regular occurrence but it’s just about getting back to basics.

We knew that we didn’t become a bad team overnight we just had to make sure that we were doing the right things, listening to the management, and we knew that it would work out eventually. Maybe the league did peter out for us a bit but I think you can see that in the last two or three weeks in the lead up to championship the spark has come back”,

So does this newer generation share his sense of belief?

I think they do, especially since Darren’s been up here the last five or six years. Especially in the last probably year or two years. We can see the difference between the boys who have been here for a while, knowing that we’re good enough and the boys just after coming in, in their first or second year, thinking we’re playing Kilkenny or Galway. We can see now that it doesn’t matter who we’re playing.

It’s been driven into us by the management and the older ones in the squad. You’re picked in the squad for a reason. You’re a good hurler, when you go up against any county you’re as good as them. We can see days where we’ve had good performances but just haven’t got over the line. I think if we could get over that line in one of our Championship games early on it would be massive within the camp and within the county as well.

It really is about getting that one win and it doesn’t matter who it’s against. I do think, us getting that win would solidify what the manager has been telling is the past few years that you are good enough, you’re more than capable of hurling with anyone on any given day”.

Get Your Tickets For Round 1 Here 

Carlow GAA
Dublin GAA
Kildare GAA
Kilkenny GAA
Laois GAA
Longford GAA
Louth GAA
Meath GAA
Offaly GAA
Westmeath GAA
Wexford GAA
Wicklow GAA