Hurling and camogie

Antrim hurling boss Darren Gleeson puts finishing touches to 'international' backroom team

Darren Gleeson alongside Neal Peden last season. Gleeson takes the reins for the 2020 season Picture Seamus Loughran.

ANTRIM’S new senior hurling manager Darren Gleeson has assembled a backroom team with an international dimension that he says is fit for “an elite group of hurlers”.

The former Tipperary All-Ireland winning goalkeeper has scoured the country for the best in the business by recruiting strength and conditioning coach Brendan Murphy and nutritionist Julia Bone.

Murphy came highly recommended to Gleeson having been the lead S&C coach with Canada’s Cycling team (2014-18) which included preparing them for the Olympics Games in Rio.

More recently, Murphy held a similar remit with Japan’s Cycling Federation (2018-19) where he was charged with developing high performance programmes.

The Co Down native has a lot of experience working in GAA circles, Varsity sport and track and field.

Before he left to work in university sport in Vancouver, Murphy had coaching spells with Bryansford GFC and Down GAA (2011-13).

On Murphy’s recruitment, Gleeson said: “This is a significant statement from Antrim GAA securing the services of someone of Brendan’s calibre.”

Julia Bone, Gleeson feels, is another key addition to Antrim’s new-look management team.

A proud Peruvian Kiwi, Bone is an accredited SENr Practitioner and Advanced Sports Dietitian who has worked with the Irish women’s hockey team who recently qualified for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

She is currently a performance nutritionist with Sports Institute where she provides support to senior and developing athletes across multiple sports.

Before moving to Belfast, Bone completed a PhD at the Australian Institute of Sport while also working with development basketball and tennis athletes.

Gleeson, who first got involved with the Antrim hurlers two seasons ago after being recommended to the Glensmen by Liam Sheedy, takes over from former boss Neal Peden who has moved to a Director of Hurling post, created by the county board.

Gleeson (38) has also persuaded former Antrim defender and Loughgiel Shamrocks clubman Johnny Campbell to join his backroom team.

Campbell is regarded as one of the brightest coaches on the club circuit in Antrim and joins experienced duo Gary O’Kane and Jimmy Close as a selector.

Dunloy man O’Kane and Rossa’s Close – both of whom represented Antrim with distinction during their playing days - were involved in Peden’s backroom team last season and were happy to stay on board with Gleeson at the helm.

“We’ve a super backroom team with a super bunch of hurlers,” said the Portroe clubman.

“It’s great for the players. They’re elite hurlers – I believe that – and they’ll prepare like elite athletes.”

Gleeson retired from the Tipperary senior hurling team in October 2017 after winning All-Irelands in 2010 and 2014.

After Antrim’s Joe McDonagh Cup campaign ended in June earlier this year, Tipperary boss and club-mate Liam Sheedy brought him onto his coaching staff as the Premier County recovered from a Munster final defeat to claim the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

A hugely popular figure in the Tipperary dressing room, Gleeson was delighted to be asked to take over from Peden in the close season.

And he hopes to have the Dunloy contingent on board over the coming weeks following the Cuchullain’s desperately disappointing Ulster final defeat to Derry kingpins Slaughtneil last weekend.

However, Gleeson will have to do without Dunloy wing-forward Nigel Elliott who has taken a year out to travel to Australia. The St John’s contingent are back on board after they didn’t declare for the county team last year.

Conor and Ciaran Johnston and Domhnall Nugent, who impressed in the club’s county championship semi-final run, are among the Johnnies men called up by Gleeson.

County finalists Ruairi Og, Cushendall are well represented with Neil McManus, Eoghan Campbell, Paddy and Martin Burke, Conor McAllister and Alex Delargy signing up for the 2020 season.

The Antrim hurlers will participate in next month’s Conor McGurk Cup and Kehoe Cup – both pre-season competitions – before opening their Division 2A account against Wicklow on Sunday January 26, with further National League matches against Mayo (h), Offaly (a), Meath (h) and Kerry (a).

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Hurling and camogie