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Hurling star Shane McNaughton also pursuing acting career

Shane McNaughton and Cushendall have a St Patrick's Day date at Croke Park for the All-Ireland club final  
Paul Keane

THE McNaughton name is synonymous with Antrim hurling, but Shane McNaughton has revealed he's taking steps to ensure a whole different audience are made aware of his skills, as an actor.

McNaughton, 28, is the former Antrim hurler and son of county legend 'Sambo' McNaughton who is currently preparing for the AIB All-Ireland club final with Cushendall. But two weeks after that March 17 date at Croke Park, he will jet out to New York to pursue his burgeoning acting career in a play about the 1916 Rising.

McNaughton has had a passion for acting since his teenage years, though explained that hurling took over for the last decade or so and, until now, it had to be put largely on the back burner. Irish audiences will get a chance to be entertained by McNaughton later this year when he plays a role in the new series of acclaimed Belfast-based drama The Fall.

"I'll be playing a doctor, I can't really say a whole lot about it, it's a small part," said McNaughton, who was happier to discuss the play he will appear in in the US.

"It's a development involving the Lyric Theatre and they're still writing it. There's nine of them. They don't actually know which one will be chosen. They're small ones and they'll go and perform them for the artistic director and he'll decide which play is put on.

"I've been acting since I was 16 or so. I was going to go to school to study it in New York, but then obviously the minor county hurling took over and that, then I got more involved with hurling and just went straight on playing hurling since then. But it's something I've been kind of dabbling in.

"With county hurling, it's all or nothing. It really is. But after I got an operation about two years ago, I got back into the acting because I had about a year to myself, so I just started auditioning again and doing a few plays in Belfast."

All of which begs the obvious question, which is more nerve jangling, running out for a major hurling game or stepping out in front of an audience? "Ah, the curtain fall, absolutely," smiled McNaughton.

"Do you know when you go and you do a gym session and you feel a new muscle that you've never felt before? Well, I felt that new feeling with acting, just pure and utter fear, sh**ing myself!"

McNaughton said the fact Cushendall are preparing for the All-Ireland club final on St Patrick's Day, following their surprise semi-final win over Sarsfield's of Galway, has kept his excitement about the New York trip in check.

"Do you know, it would be a lot more exciting I think if I wasn't involved in this," said McNaughton.

"I was saying to my brother the other day that, no matter what you do in your life, it doesn't matter if you went on and did something great in some other field, whenever you experienced something like this, playing in an All-Ireland final and getting to share it with the people you have grown up with, your best friends and family, then nothing will ever top that."

McNaughton admitted hurling and acting don't necessarily dovetail so well: "Even there before Christmas, it was a nightmare," he said.

"Obviously, I couldn't foresee us wining the Ulster championship, so I'd already accepted a part in a play. We were training and rehearsing, I didn't actually realise that the rehearsals took up so much of your time. I was juggling all of that for a few months. It was quite difficult."

 
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