Tipperary native Darren Gleeson expected to take Antrim hurling reins
TIPPERARY’S 2016 All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Darren Gleeson is expected to be unveiled as Antrim’s new senior hurling manager next week.
Last season’s manager Neal Peden is ready to move into a newly created Director of Hurling post where he will help devise a long term strategy in the county.
Thirty-eight-year-old Gleeson, who was also a non-playing member in Tipperary's All-Ireland winning side of 2010, has been involved in the last two backroom teams with Antrim over the last few seasons and has made a big impression with the players.
Antrim’s capture of Gleeson is significant given that he has been a man in demand this year.
After Antrim’s Joe McDonagh campaign ended against Westmeath in June, Tipperary manager and close friend Liam Sheedy brought him into his management set-up where he added value in what turned out to be the county’s triumphant march to the Liam MacCarthy.
Gleeson was originally invited up to Antrim through Sheedy a couple of seasons ago when the latter was assisting Dominic McKinley and Terence McNaughton.
Gleeson was travelling up to Antrim twice per week during the season but he will be spending significantly more time on the road as manager.
It’s not the first time Antrim have gone south for a senior manager.
Dinny Cahill, another Tipp native, had two relatively successful spells in charge of the Saffrons while Cork man Jerry Wallace’s stint was disappointing and short-lived.
Gleeson has also been attending Antrim club matches this season.
It’s likely he will want to assemble his own backroom staff too, so the status of Peden’s assistants, among them Karl McKeegan, Gary O’Kane and Jim Close, is currently unclear.
It is understood county officials were very keen to retain the services of the experienced Peden who stepped up to the manager’s role at the start of last season having been part of McKinley and McNaughton’s backroom team.
The St John’s man will be tasked with overseeing and improving hurling structures in the county as Antrim bid to improve at minor level.
Under Peden, a relatively inexperienced Antrim side were never in the promotion hunt in NHL Division 2A but performed better in the Joe McDonagh, the high point of which was their memorable win over Offaly down in Tullamore.
But losses to McDonagh finalists Laois and Westmeath halted their progress.
The raw material at senior level in Antrim is encouraging with a host of young hurlers from Dunloy getting plenty of game-time in 2019 and they’ll be better acclimatised for the challenges that lie ahead, while Cushendall, Loughgiel Shamrocks and St John’s have an abundance of inter-county quality to make promotion back to Division One hurling a realistic target in 2020.
Gleeson is expected to be in attendance for the county championship semi-finals between Cushendall and St John’s (September 14) and Dunloy versus Loughgiel (September 15), with the decider scheduled for September 29.