Liam Sheedy doesn't have 'magic wand' to improve Antrim's fortunes insists Terence McNaughton
ANTRIM joint manager Terence McNaughton has hailed the impact of Liam Sheedy – but warned that the All-Ireland winning boss doesn’t have a “magic wand” to transform the Saffrons’s fortunes.
Sheedy, who guided his native Tipperary to the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2010 as well as the 2007 minor crown, came on board with Antrim in the autumn as they prepare for a major step up in class next year.
A January 28 away trip to face All-Ireland champions Galway is their early reward for winning promotion to Division 1B, while the inaugural Joe McDonagh Cup offers a potential route into the Liam MacCarthy.
First up though is the Walsh Cup, which starts against Meath on December 30, before the Saffrons are thrust into Conor McGurk Cup action three days later.
A busy year lies ahead, and McNaughton says Sheedy has made an instant impression on the whole Antrim set-up.
“Liam has been a massive influence on us,” said McNaughton, who is part of a management team that also includes Dominic ‘Woody’ McKinley, Gary O’Kane and Neal Peden.
“What Liam Sheedy brings to the table is his experience and credibility. He’s been there and got the t-shirt at minor, U21 and senior level. He’s done it all.
“He’s a very straightforward, down to earth sort of guy. He knows his hurling, you don’t have to analyse what he’s thinking or saying.
“He’s helping us and he’s having his influence there, without a doubt. If Liam Sheedy says something, you have to respect it.”
However, the Cushendall legend says Sheedy’s involvement alone is not enough to merit any soaring of expectations in a season when Antrim “will find out exactly where we are”.
McNaughton continued: “Liam has been around long enough, he knows what’s going on [in Antrim]. He’s up quite a lot and we’re down meeting him, and then he’s up at the games, giving us advice.
“But he’s not going to flick a switch and everything comes good. He’s not here to wave a magic wand – it still comes down to everybody putting their shoulder to the wheel, working hard and being ambitious.
“We want kids with ambition, character and desire. Those things are still the absolute cornerstone of any successful team, and that’s what we’re trying to build.
“Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for – we wanted up so we’re up and our first game in the League is away to the All-Ireland champions.
“Realistically we’re in the Championship we should be in; we could lose every game or we could win every game. Once the games start they’re going to come thick and fast, so the strength in depth of your panel is going to be important than ever.”
The Saffrons, who played a challenge game against Wexford at the weekend, have added some new faces to the panel for 2018 in Loughgiel pair Donal McKinley and Dan McCloskey, Cushendall’s David Kearney and Eoin O’Neill from Dunloy.
Gone, however, is Sarsfield’s forward Niall McKenna, who will line out for Lory Meagher champions Warwickshire next year after relocating to Birmingham.
McNaughton’s son Christy is also unlikely to be an option until the summer months after two serious injuries (ankle and knee) curtailed his involvement this year.
“He’s only started to run last week – he got over one injury then was straight back into another, so last year was a bit of a non-event for him,” said McNaughton.
“It’s a long road back for him and he’ll be targeting the summer. It’s the U21s he’ll be aiming for anyway.”