Terence McNaughton ends his St Enda's stint after All-Ireland semi-final loss
AIB All-Ireland Club Intermediate Hurling Championship semi-final
Tullaroan (Kilkenny) 3-20 St Enda's (Antrim) 0-14
AS a remarkable campaign came to a disappointing end for the hurlers of St Enda's, so too did Terence McNaughton's short but incredibly successful tenure at Hightown.
Following Saturday's 3-20 to 0-14 defeat to Tullaroan in the All-Ireland Club IHC semi-final, the former Antrim boss confirmed that he will return to his native Cushendall in a coaching capacity for the forthcoming season.
It is understood that Eamon Gillan is set to be appointed as Ciaran Kearney's successor with McNaughton rejoining the Ruairí Óg management set-up as coach.
Cushendall, who were Antrim and Ulster senior champions in 2018, lost out to Dunloy in last September's Antrim county final.
McNaughton said the lure of his home club was simply too great to ignore, but paid tribute to the commitment of St Enda's following Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final loss.
“I was never under no illusions, I said I would do January to January,” said McNaugton.
“I couldn't manage them (St Enda's) against Cushendall this season.
“My club is my club, what do you say? It is your family.
“St Enda's are a great club, they were there before I arrived and they'll be there long after I go. I hope whatever I helped, they build on it. I enjoyed the past year and it has been good for me as a coach. I'm leaving here a better coach than when I arrived.”
McNaughton also claimed he wouldn't rule out another stint at St Enda's further down the line and he has left big shoes to fill after a brilliant 2019 campaign.
Just days before beginning their Championship journey, St Enda's clinched the Division Two title and promotion to the top flight before going on an unbeaten run which would see them win their first Antrim intermediate hurling title.
Wins over Banagher, Bredagh and a penalty shoot-out victory over Dungannon in the provincial decider set-up a crack at Tullaroan for a place in the All-Ireland final, but it proved to be a bridge too far for St Enda's.
Even from the early stages of Saturday's one-sided contest, it was clear that the Hightown Road men would need every break to go their way.
However, Tommy Walsh's goal in the second minute put them on the back foot straight away and a hat-trick of saves from goalkeeper Paul Buggy meant Tullaroan also kept a clean sheet.
McNaughton offered a typically forthright assessment following Saturday's defeat.
“We must have hit 30 balls in around the square and they cleaned up every one of them,” said McNaughton.
“The only one we got was the goal chance in the first half, but we hit it straight at the 'keeper – you need to take those chances.
“It is a learning process. You need to get people in and around when the ball breaks.
“We tried to curtail them as much as as could in the first half, but you are looking something to happen and it didn't.
“They were much the better team and that's the bottom line.”