Hurling and camogie

Liam Sheedy wants Antrim supporters to come out in force for crunch Meath clash

Former Tipperary boss Liam Sheedy has been involved with the Antrim hurlers since the end of 2017. They begin their Joe McDonagh Cup campaign against Meath in Navan tomorrow. Picture by Colm O'Reilly

ALL-IRELAND winning manager Liam Sheedy has called on Antrim supporters to come out and show their support for the Saffrons throughout the Joe McDonagh Cup – starting against Meath in Navan tomorrow.

The former Tipperary boss, who led his native county to the Liam Mac Carthy Cup in 2010, has been working alongside the Antrim management team of Terence McNaughton, Dominic McKinley, Gary O’Kane and Neal Peden since the end of last year.

And, although they ultimately suffered the disappointment of relegation from Division 1B of the National Hurling League, Sheedy believes they take “huge positives” from that campaign into the inaugural Joe McDonagh Cup.

The Saffrons pushed All-Ireland champions Galway all the way in Salthill on the opening day of the League, could and possibly should have beaten Pat Gilroy’s Dublin the following week and defeated Offaly in Birr.

Those performances, Sheedy insists, stand the Saffrons in good stead for tomorrow’s Royal rumble at Pairc Tailteann, and the Portroe man has issued an impassioned plea for the Antrim supporters to come out in force.

“For Antrim to have any chance in the Joe McDonagh Cup in its first year, the county has to come in behind us,” he said.

“They deserve support for the way they carry themselves, the way they train, the effort they’ve put in. They’re trying really hard to be as good as they can be as a group, and I don’t think a county can ask any more.

“For the ones that did travel to Galway, I think they left after playing the All-Ireland champions saying ‘my God, those boys really emptied themselves and gave everything for the Antrim jersey’.

“I’m not saying we’re the finished article, but they’re certainly doing everything they can. Going down to Meath, we’ve lost the last three competitive outings going down to Meath, so the support and the crowd can make a difference.

“Last time I was up I went over to the club at Casement Park and was talking to some very passionate Antrim people who were saying there would be a bus leaving from there… if we could just get a few more onto the buses and others to make the journey, the team – and everybody involved with the team – would really appreciate it.”

Having been involved with such successful regimes in the past, Sheedy also led the Tipp minors to All-Ireland glory 12 years ago, he is a man who knows and understands what it takes to build something special.

Considering they lost by 11 points to Carlow in the Christy Ring Cup final last June, Sheedy feels the Saffrons have already made massive strides.

And he hopes they can showcase that improvement through the Joe McDonagh Cup.

“Six teams, five games, it’s going to test your panel, test your steel, test everything about your set-up so from that point of view it’s fairly full on. Whoever gets to the final will have had to earn it.

“In fairness to the bunch, since I first met them at the back end of last year, the people in there are top class. They’ve trained very hard, they were very competitive in the League, had some great performances.

“When you’re in against the All-Ireland champions, that’s a hard place to be but they acquitted themselves really well and that’s a testament to their commitment, resolve and belief.

“To be competitive in 1B is no mean feat. You have to understand where we’re coming from in terms of being beaten by a significant score in a Christy Ring Cup final.

“It’s a long road back but the only road back is commitment and effort. That’s all I’ve witnessed with this group any time I’ve stepped into the middle of them – that raw energy, that sheer passion and enthusiasm to try and get the best out of themselves.”

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