Neal Peden happy to let Antrim County Board appoint new hurling boss
ANTRIM’S former joint hurling manager Neal Peden says he would be keen to remain part of any new management team before praising out-going duo Dominic McKinley and Terence McNaughton.
Last season’s four-man management team of McKinley, McNaughton, Peden and Gary O’Kane disbanded and nominations were sought from club delegates at Monday night’s county board meeting.
Slaughtneil boss Michael McShane was the only name submitted but it remains to be seen whether the Ballycastle native will actively seek the position.
Under McShane, the Derry champions made the breakthrough on the provincial stage and lost two consecutive All-Ireland semi-finals to Cuala and Na Piarsaigh in 2017 and 2018.
Peden and O’Kane are willing to be part of next season’s new management team, but Peden is happy for the appointment process at county executive level to take their course.
Tipperary’s All-Ireland winning manager Liam Sheedy also helped out in 2018 but it’s unclear if he will remain involved next season.
“Obviously the county want to see who is interested in the management position so it’s just in the melting pot at the minute,” Peden said.
“Whoever comes in will want their team and that will be really between them and the county board. It might filter down through to us if they’re looking for support and help...
“There’s a procedure to go through. Names will come forward, the county board will probably put a group together and put together the best team possible to move it forward.”
Peden was charged with the squad’s GPS systems and video analysis alongside Justin McCormack.
Peden and O’Kane joined McKinley and McNaughton when the county board sent out an SOS midway through the 2016 season when PJ O’Mullan jr stepped down.
The quartet steadied the ship and guided the team to a Christy Ring decider.
In 2017, Antrim gained promotion back to Division 1B and again reached a Ring final but were beaten by Carlow.
In the season just passed the Saffrons were relegated after a play-off and managed to stay in the inaugural Joe McDonagh Cup by beating Kildare in an end of season play-off clash in Armagh.
Despite some poor results, the management team unearthed new players, including Joe Maskey and Gerard Walsh while relative newcomers Donal McKinley, David Kearney, Nigel Elliott, James McNaughton and Daniel McCloskey made some headway and Keelan Molloy’s late arrival gave the team a significant boost.
“I enjoyed the last two-and-a-half years,” said Peden, who coached the Antrim seniors under the late Jim Nelson during the 1990s.
“The job has obviously got a lot harder from those days. It’s a big, big job. The four of us were a good, strong team and you need that.
“It’s not a one-man job any more. We’re obviously keen to help to keep the strong structures that are already in place.
“The problem we had last season was getting the top players to play. Some players didn’t play last season, for their own reasons.
“It’s a big commitment. I see the GPA/GAA brought out a report on the demands placed on inter-county players, so I can understand that.”
On the departures of McKinley and McNaughton, Peden said: “I think the two boys felt they’d done the job a couple of times and they’d done all they could. They gave a lot of time to Antrim and put a lot of effort in. They owe Antrim hurling nothing.”