Fred McCurry enjoying his debut season with Antrim hurlers

Cushendall ace in it for the long haul with the Saffrons

Fred McCurry
Cushendall's Fred McCurry during last season's county final with Loughgiel. McCurry has stepped up with the Antrim seniors in 2024 Picture Mark Marlow (SYSTEM)

FRED McCurry is only in his first year with the Antrim senior hurlers – but the Cushendall man is in it for the long haul.

McCurry got plenty of minutes under his belt during a testing Division 1B campaign for Antrim earlier this year, and even though game-time has been the enemy in the Leinster SHC round robin series, the versatile 24-year-old is loving every minute of his first season.

He enjoyed a brilliant season for the Ruairi Ogs in 2023, winning a county and provincial title before going agonisingly close to toppling O’Loughlin Gaels in the All-Ireland semi-finals.

But it was the perfect springboard for him to graduate to the inter-county stage.

“It’s completely new,” he said.

“I’ve been speaking to the lads over the last couple of years that were on the panel and you hear what it’s like, how good the set-up is, how professional everything is, but you don’t actually grasp that until you’re in the thick of it.

“When I joined, the training was top level and all the other players from different clubs are unbelievable hurlers.

“It’s great to be part of that and to learn off them and the coaching staff that is there – strength and conditioning, nutrition, the coaches on the bench and Darren himself – they couldn’t be any more professional.”

McCurry only got a few minutes as a blood sub in Antrim’s epic Leinster SHC win over Wexford at Corrigan Park but got more Championship minutes in the final quarters against Dublin and Galway.

Asked how much he believes he can improve as a hurler by hooking up with the county squad, McCurry said: “The sky is the limit really...

“Everything is there for you. There’s a gym up in Dunsilly now and the pitches are in great shape. It’s up to myself to get the head down and work hard and show my best and improve.”

After taking a couple of weeks’ break following Cushendall’s narrow All-Ireland semi-final loss to O’Loughlin Gaels, McCurry couldn’t believe the levels of fitness and dedication he discovered in his first session with the Antrim hurlers.

“The boys put in a serious shift before Christmas and going in it was interesting to see what the fitness levels the boys were at.

“Cushendall were just coming off the club season so our fitness was reasonably good. We took a one or two-week break over Christmas. But, straight away, [I was so impressed with] how well they maintain their standards; you had to be like that every night, not every other night. You need to give your full attention to that.

“It’s what I love doing. I love playing hurling. I always wanted to see how far it takes me. I thoroughly enjoy it and I don’t feel like it’s a stress to give the time over to it because that’s what I love to do. I’ve got a good balance on and off the pitch at the minute.”

On Sunday, Antrim’s hard-earned Leinster SHC status is on the line against fellow strugglers Carlow at Corrigan Park – and McCurry is hoping they can re-live the atmosphere generated against Wexford, their only win in the round robin series.

“Corrigan Park has an unbelievable atmosphere when the fans get going there. The Wexford game stands out for me. The lads performed really well but there was a period in that game where we needed the fans to allow us to push on. The feeling after the game was unreal and the people on the pitch were overjoyed. You really want to have as many of those days as you can.”