Naomh Enna reaching their potential under the inspirational guidance of Terence McNaughton
“Boys and girls, don’t accept mediocre. When I joined St Enda’s this year I didn’t make them good hurlers, I didn’t wave magic wands. The one thing I did change was their mindset. They’d a mindset of accepting mediocre: boys coming and boys going. I joked with them: ‘You’re social hurlers. It’s like a drop-in centre.’
“Nobody went for a week’s holiday to Donegal – everybody went five weeks inter-railing in the middle of the hurling season. So the mindset had to change.” – Terence McNaughton addressing the pupils of Edmund Rice College Glengormley at their prize-giving night last month
TERENCE McNaughton thought long and hard before agreeing to manage outside the confines of his own club.
St Enda’s, Glengormley seemed the perfect fit. He’d attended a couple of dinner dances at the Hightown Road club over the years and his wife Ursula had some family ties there.
He arranged a pre-season challenge match with Kevin Lynch’s, Dungiven and thought he’d made a huge mistake in taking the Naomh Éanna reins.
“It was the first time seeing the lads in action,” McNaughton told The Saffron Gael.
“I can remember driving back from Dungiven thinking: ‘What in the name of f**k have I got myself in for.’”
Spool forward and the Glengormley men are aiming for Ulster Intermediate glory in Owenbeg this afternoon.
Standing in their way are Eoghan Ruadh Dungannon whom they beat at the beginning of August to seal promotion to Division One for the first time in their history.
An Antrim intermediate title followed, seeing off Carey Faughs in the decider.
Their journey was expected to grind to a gallant halt against a seasoned Banagher side on the provincial stage, Derry’s second tier champions.
“When we played Banagher it was a rain-sodden pitch, about 4 degrees,” says veteran St Enda’s hurler Philly Curran.
“It didn’t come down to hurling that day; it came down to who had the b***s. And that’s down to the Terence McNaughton effect.
“If we’d played that game three or four months earlier, I don’t know if the character would have been in the team, but he’s definitely pulled it out of us.”
Curran, now in his 20th season with the St Enda’s hurlers, hit the all-important goal against Banagher before Ruairi Donaghy grabbed the winner in the dying seconds.
If they saved their best for Banagher, they reserved one of their weakest displays of the season for their provincial semi-final against a gusty Bredagh side, scraping home in extra-time.
Curran adds: “He’s probably a bit like Alex Ferguson – you didn’t know when the hair-dryer was coming. Sometimes the hair-dryer comes when you think you’re doing well, and when you’re not playing well and you think you deserve a kick up the arse, but it doesn’t come.
“I think he instinctively knows when there is no point in shouting.”
Curran (35), who was part of the club’s football squad that reached last season’s All-Ireland Intermediate decider, says McNaughton didn’t arrive on the Hightown Road with a box of tricks.
“Mindset is everything,” he says. “It’s just that winning mentality he’s brought. We’ve had managers that had that winning mentality but didn’t have the same stature as Terence McNaughton. He didn’t re-design the wheel.
“Ask anyone in Antrim, his coaching is unbelievable – it’s unbelievable because it’s motivational. The drills that he does I’ve been doing for 20 years of my career, but it’s the intensity that he brings to it.
“In the past you’d do drills that are that complicated nobody knows what they’re doing. Some coaches try to re-design hurling and everything else… The stuff we’re doing now is basic.
“But he’s standing there and he’s driving you on. It’s like someone telling you to go through that wall. If Terence McNaughton tells you to go through the wall, you’ll give it a go. It’s more the intensity and the aggression he’s brought to us.”
Due to his own family connections in Cushendall, Joe Maskey has known McNaughton since he was roughly 10-years-old.
He was involved in Antrim’s development squads and with the help of McNaughton and Dominic ‘Woody’ McKinley, the rough edges came off the towering half-back.
Maskey progressed to the Antrim senior squad where he established himself as one of the team's resident half-backs.
Maskey was excited when he heard McNaughton was coming to Naomh Éanna.
“He doesn’t ask for commitment – he demands it,” he says.
“If you don’t give it, don’t turn up basically. He wants you to train as hard as you can so when it comes to a match, it's the same… People say it’s like flicking a switch but you can’t really do that if you train at a lower intensity. You need to train the same as you play.
“A lot of boys have improved as actual hurlers and by setting such a high standard you go along with it. Maybe in the past some of our players were social hurlers but the whole mindset has changed.”
“He’s such a man’s man,” Curran says. “You could tell him he’s f***ing w****** and you’d go and get a shower and he’d have a cup of coffee sitting waiting on you when you come out of the shower. He’s the one guy if you have a fall-out, it’s not the end of the world, and he has a serious bit of wit about him too.”
Curran has toiled for two decades in both football and in hurling for Naomh Éanna. He’s endured more bad days than good with the small ball.
The prospect of sampling Division One hurling in the black and amber colours might just prolong his astonishing career for another season.
“This is my 20th season playing hurling and it’s definitely been the most enjoyable by a long way,” he says.
Terence McNaughton patrolling the Naomh Éanna sidelines doesn’t guarantee them podium appearances.
What the Cushendall native has guaranteed the Hightown Road hurlers since his arrival is the platform for each of them to reach their potential.
They’re no longer social hurlers. The club is no longer a drop-in centre. And they no longer aim to be just mediocre.