Neil McManus wedding clashes with Christy Ring showdown with Down
IT was a regular Tuesday evening for Neil McManus – until his house was unexpectedly invaded by a group of friends who doused him in flour and eggs and proceeded to parade him around Cushendall in a trailer.
The Antrim hurler will tie the knot with his fiancée Aileen Martin in Dunloy on Saturday afternoon and will miss the team’s Christy Ring quarter-final against Down.
The Ruairi Og clubman produced a magnificent display in Antrim’s last-gasp win over Carlow last weekend and while he will be on his way to Ballyscullion Park in Bellaghy when the action gets underway in Cushendall, McManus hopes the wedding gate-crashers will turn up with smiles on their faces.
“This week has been a little busier than normal,” says McManus before confessing that he has played no constructive part in organising their wedding.
“To be honest, Aileen has looked after every aspect of the wedding. A few things I was entrusted with weren’t done to the necessary standards so she Aileen took control of those things.
“And then on Tuesday night I was too busy because I was being driven around Cushendall in a trailer!
“I’m looking forward to it, I must say but I’m sure there’ll be nerves on the day.”
With no honeymoon planned until later in the year McManus will hook up with the Antrim panel late next week.
If they beat Down, Antrim will play their Christy Ring semi-final on May 20. But if they lose to the Ardsmen, they will be back out again the following weekend.
“You love hurling for your county but it’s that bit more special that it’s in Cushendall,” McManus says. “But I’ve full confidence in the boys. One of the keys for us this year has been the strength of the panel and people who have got their chance unexpectedly have nailed down spots in the team, and that could be very well the case on Saturday.”
McManus hit 1-11 in Antrim’s extra-time win over Carlow last weekend in a team performance that boosted morale across the county.
“Last weekend’s victory is probably up there with anything I’ve been involved in,” says the 28-year-old. “We were not playing well and we were in trouble and we were flat – maybe because we played so many games week in week out.
“It’s more of a psychological drain than a physical drain. To play hurling, it’s an aggressive sport and you need to be mentally up for it every time.
“The League final [against Carlow] was such a big game for us and we had the Ulster Championship after that and we were straight into the Carlow game in the Christy Ring.
“There was the overnight stay… and we started really flat. But that’s what made the victory so good because it was so much easier to go away from the task and think: ‘It’s not going to be our day. You get days like this.’
“But we just wouldn’t accept no for an answer. We just kept going to the very last whistle.
“The character, the work-rate and the honesty within that group was particularly satisfying.”