By David Mohan

PJ O’Mullan has stepped down as Antrim senior hurling manager following a meeting with the Antrim County Board earlier today (Friday).
The Loughgiel man was appointed to the role last November following the departure of previous incumbent, Kevin Ryan and it was hoped he would help turn the Saffrons’ fortunes around after a dismal 2015 that saw relegation to 2A in the National Hurling League as well as demotion to the Christy Ring Cup.
O’Mullan made it clear his priority was League promotion, but after wins over Derry and Kildare in their opening games, Antrim failed to pick up another point with defeats against Westmeath and Carlow condemning them to another year in the de facto third tier. A defeat in London in the final round of games compounded a disappointing campaign.
In an interview with the Belfast Media Group in last week’s Between The Posts supplement, Antrim chairman Colin Donnelly said he and the Board would be meeting with the hurling management to review the League to try and identify just what had gone wrong.
That meeting has resulted in O’Mullan’s departure with a statement from the Antrim County Board signed by secretary, Frankie Quinn stating the Loughgiel man is stepping down to ‘personal circumstances’.
It read: “At a meeting earlier today in the offices of Antrim GAA the current senior hurling manager, PJ O’Mullan, has decided to step down from his post due to personal circumstances.
“PJ would like to thank the backroom team and the county board for their support and assistance during his time in charge. The county board would like to thank PJ and his backroom team for their efforts and wish PJ the best of luck for the future.”
With Antrim due to begin their Christy Ring Cup campaign in just over three weeks, attention will turn to who will step into the role for the remainder of the season.
Justin McCarthy acted as an advisor to O’Mullan so may be an option to fill in for the rest of the year although the Cork native’s involvement was dependent on O’Mullan’s initial appointment.
Gavin Duffy – a selector – could possibly step in on an interim basis, while others such as Terence McNaughton, Gregory O’Kane, Ollie Bellew or Shane Elliott are others who could see Antrim through until a full-time successor can be found.
It is unlikely a permanent manager will be appointed until after the 2016 campaign that could run until July 10 should Antrim qualify for the Ulster SHC final, but a quick decision will need to be made given the team’s round one game against Kildare takes place on April 23.
“Antrim GAA will meet to consider its options regarding the management of the team for the upcoming Christy Ring campaign,” the statement concluded.