For the moment at least, Cushendall's 'alien of extraordinary ability' is back at home. Shane McNaughton, son of Antrim hurling great 'Sambo', has been approved for a prized Green Card on the back of his acting talent, but there's still paperwork to be done before it is all official.
In the meantime, he's in Antrim reacquainting himself with the beautiful patchwork of earth hemmed in between the mountains and the sea. It is at once the place he left behind and the place he is ever drawn back to.
A few weeks after Cushendall's 2016 All-Ireland club SHC final defeat, McNaughton packed his bags for New York in pursuit of a long-term dream. Leaving that day, he knew he'd likely never play hurling for the club or Antrim again. Essentially, he was swapping one passion for another.
When it came to it, he didn't have much of a choice. McNaughton had been accepted into the summer conservatory of the Stella Adler Studio of acting.
The school apply a rigorous selection process. And by being accepted, he was following in the footsteps of the likes of Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel.
That acceptance had been the realisation of a long-term dream. McNaughton had flirted with the idea of attending the school as a teenager, but it proved too expensive. This time around he managed - but just about. Between rent and fees, he had to find $2,500 per month.
"See without one dollar pizzas, I don't know what I'd have done," McNaughton smiles now. "You could get lunch and dinner for three or four dollars."
It sounds like a difficult existence, but for McNaughton it was easy work. He had rediscovered his love for acting after a hip injury forced him out of hurling for 18 months. He quickly picked up a role in the TV series 'The Fall'. It only whetted his appetite.
"On 'The Fall', the first day, I knew I needed more training, even just for confidence," he says.
"I just approached it like playing hurling, I just wanted to get better so I went to America and played hurling for the summer and when I was doing that I enrolled in a school there called Maggie Flanigan's Studio.
"It's another acting school and when I was there I auditioned for the full-time conservatory for the Stella Adler that summer, because that was the school I had read about my whole life."
He opted for the evening course and did what he could during the day to make ends meet in New York. When time allowed, he hurled with the Ulster club.
At other times he'd pick up work that would allow him the flexibility he needed to attend auditions. Often times, he'd arrive straight from a building site to acting school.
"Our classes started at 5 and went to 11. In those classes you have voice and speech, improvisation, clown mask work, scene study, there's a lot of different things. It was good for getting you out of your comfort zone."
By his own admission, there was nothing in his lineage that would have seen him naturally drawn to the stage. 'Sambo' has written before about how he struggled with a speech impediment, but there's a creative streak in the McNaughtons.
His cousin Cathal won a Pulitzer Prize for photography for documenting the plight of Rohingya refugees fleeing genocide in Myanmar.
Shane laughs that while Cathal is a world-class photographer, the family tease him about being "the only McNaughton without a championship medal".
"We've no real affiliation to the arts. Up in Cushendall, I grew up with hurling. But the place I live, I have run about in bars since I was about 10 years of age and there's stories there and a great folklore around the Glens of Antrim, there's characters there.
"Any job I've done is about people. I've been a bartender, worked in prisons with young offenders and young women. I was always more curious about other people that I was ever was about myself. I think that's where my driving force comes from.
"I remember driving past houses when I was younger with me and my Dad playing a game, guessing what they are doing or what their lives are like. I always felt more comfortable and found it more interesting looking at other people."
Even in the US, living life as an actor, hurling and home followed him. In McGuinness's bar in Queens, he noticed a signed hurl hanging behind the counter. He recognised the handwriting. 'Sambo' had been in and signed it almost 25 years earlier.
"My Dad told me we were in that bar when I was maybe six, and he signed it. I miss home. I always do. My family is there and my sister has a wee baby. But I'm happy with what I'm doing, I understand what an opportunity it is for me.
"Even getting the Green Card through acting is a massive thing, I got very lucky. I have a lot of stuff going on there, and you know you are only six hours away and there's FaceTime and whatnot but New York is a good place for me to be."
It hasn't been straightforward. McNaughton has sacrificed a lot to pursue what he wants. And even though he's been recruited by an agency and manager, and was recently nominated for best actor at the Irish Theatre Festival in New York there's been tougher times, including panic attacks.
"I'll be honest, I would struggle with anxiety and stuff. I'd have had panic attacks before a lot. I'd never get them before going on stage, which is weird, I'd get them in quiet moments when you are alone in the bed which I'd always found strange…
"So as long as I'm learning every day and have a bit of a purpose I'm happy. And at this stage I just want to work with he best writers and the best directors to learn.
"I'm not trying to be anywhere tomorrow. I've got goals. And I really f*****g want them, but I don't need them, which is a good position to be in ... I understand it's a marathon, not a sprint in this game.
"There's a lot of rejection you get but I've learnt about how much you need that rejection, that failure, otherwise you just won't make it.
"I'm quite happy and content getting up and doing it and not getting paid for it. I got up for 20 years I went up and went hurling training four nights a week and I didn't get paid for it. I did it because I loved it. And it's the same with this.
"I'll get up every morning and work on what I'm doing. And if I'm not getting paid for it, I'm not getting paid for it; hopefully you work our way up to the day where you do get paid for it."
When he returns Stateside, success is anything but guaranteed but at least the Green Card will put him on a level playing field.
Studios just won't take a chance on someone who doesn't have the paperwork behind them. And now, the goal is simple - to chase down every opportunity and see where it brings him.
"I remember sitting on the couch in Cushendall when I was 18. And you picture yourself winning Oscars and awards and all, and that very quickly escapes you because even making a living at it would be a serious accomplishment in itself.
"You need a great deal of luck. But if you are in it for the right reasons and are passionate about it, then you'll last and you can justify getting up every morning and chasing your dream as opposed to someone else's," he concludes.