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Christy McNaughton glad to be back behind Ruairi Og wheel

Christy McNaughton has returned to the Ruairi Og seniors ahead of their tilt at All-Ireland glory Picture Margaret McLaughlin

IT was after yet another club championship victory when Christy McNaughton realised he was on the wrong side of the bar.

He was pulling his team-mates pints in the Lurig Bar rather than drinking with them.

A bad knee injury and, as he confesses, a lack of desire to return to the coalface of club training kept him away from the hurling field for far too long.

It was in a league game against Ballycran in July 2017, the Cushendall man suffered a dislocated knee and medial ligament tear.

Probably the most naturally gifted hurler in the McNaughton household, Christy rejoined the Ruairi Og seniors after their Ulster final victory over Ballycran in November.

A couple of pep talks from his father Terence also persuaded the 21-year-old to get back playing for his club again.

Read more: Cushendall's Arron Graffin "still pushing" to feature in All-Ireland semi-final against St Thomas's

Speaking at Wednesday night’s All-Ireland semi-final press night, he said: “My da gives me plenty of advice. But there were a few months there where there weren’t too many words spoken.

“I was getting lazy and he was getting annoyed with me because I probably could have been hurling. He was telling me that there was no point wasting talent.”

Laughing, he adds: “My da annoys me constantly. We had plenty of conversations but it was probably more the fact I was watching the games…

“In saying that, I didn’t even go to the championship game against St John’s; I couldn’t watch it. I was working in the bar and then I was too busy trying to get the latest score. I realised then I wouldn’t mind being there.

“I went to the [county semi-final] replay against St John’s and to watch the boys fighting for each other, you kind of want to be back involved, and when they were in the bar after the games I didn’t feel part of the team.

“I was still friends with the boys but it’s different when you’re not training with them for for four or five nights a week.

“When you look back after a hard night’s training, you do enjoy it.”

McNaughton has been putting in plenty of hours since November with personal trainer Johnny Neeson alongside Cushendall captain Paddy Burke and has squeezed a few extra sessions in with Arron Graffin who is also on the comeback trail with a similar injury.

“I’m not going to lie – the wee break for a couple of months was good,” McNaughton said.

“I wasn’t going to training four or five nights a week and I was able to do my own thing, but it’s good to get back. I missed it. I want to get back, not just for this semi-final but for the next few years and be at it full-time

“I met with Eamonn [Gillan, manager] and he said there was a lot of hard work to be done. I’d lost a bit of fitness and touch and put on a bit of weight, but I’m feeling much better now.”

Bar work and hurling will never be bosom buddies. During the summer months, McNaughton was working 70-hour weeks.

“In Cushendall the population nearly trebles with the caravan sites. During the festival, you were opening the bar at 10 in the morning and shutting it four or five the next morning.

“But with me back training now, some folk aren’t happy with me because I’m shutting the bar a bit earlier!”

Read more: Cushendall's Arron Graffin "still pushing" to feature in All-Ireland semi-final against St Thomas's

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