Tuesday 16 January 2018

'Seeing my father's face after winning an All Ireland is all I ever want' - Shane McNaughton wants victory for dad Sambo

Cushendall's Shane McNaughton is ready to face Na Piarsaigh Photo: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile
Cushendall's Shane McNaughton is ready to face Na Piarsaigh Photo: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile
Shane McNaughton (SPORTSFILE)
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

"To be honest with you, I thought maybe we missed the boat," Shane McNaughton offers when asked if he thought Cushendall would ever get to an All-Ireland final on St Patrick's day.

McNaughton had played and lost in two All-Ireland club semi-finals before they got over the line against Galway's Sarsfields last month to seal their ticket to the big dance.

Falling at the penultimate hurdle was a familiar heartbreak for the family. His father Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton was involved in the other seven that Cushendall have been involved in down through the years.

"He (Sambo) played every one that I haven't played in," McNaughton says. "He's been coaching us all year as well. He has two sons on it.

"I remember saying years ago in an article that the best thing you could ever want would be seeing your father's face after winning an All-Ireland final or something.

"Having him involved and my wee brother is on the team too, so having them involved adds to it even more."

It was hard for Cushendall to look on as down through the years other Antrim clubs got to the St Patrick's Day showpiece.

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The likes of O'Donovan Rossa and Dunloy contested All-Ireland finals and then, in 2012, Cushendall's great rivals Loughgiel went all the way.

If their win was hard to stomach, it at least reminded them what was possible. "I wasn't delighted but I was happy enough that an Antrim club won it. I don't really think about Loughgiel too much in my spare time!

"Yeah (it's) someone from across the mountain; exactly. They are only about 14 or 15 miles away and I suppose we would have played with all those boys on the Antrim team.

"There's no difference in the hurlers in Loughgiel and Cushendall really so seeing them go on and win an All-Ireland really did give us a bit of confidence."

Along with Loughgiel's win, McNaughton was also emboldened by what was coming after him. In Cushendall, they always believed the talent coming through was as good as you'd get anywhere.

"I'd seen the younger players that were coming through from our minor team. I knew if we hung on for a few more years there would be a team there that could challenge for an All-Ireland. The players coming in there in the last three or four years really, they've just added so much to the team.

"They've brought it from being a good team to a team with … I suppose the challenges we were going through the whole length of the championship and Ulster Championship as well kind of brought a bit of character to the whole team in general."

This side have made a habit out of digging themselves out of tight spots and, according to the bookmakers, they'll have to be at their defiant best to see off Na Piarsaigh.

Given the Limerick men's forward talent, it's likely that any slow start this afternoon could be fatal to their hopes of joining Loughgiel on the roll of honour.

"What we've tended to do is wait until half-time and there was a lackadaisical thing about it. The whole way through the Ulster Championship we were down at half-time in every game.

"The way in which we won that was just as good as winning it, because it showed we could go for the full (60) minutes. I think that game matured us a lot too.

McNaughton heads to the US to pursue an blossoming acting career in the coming weeks and he is confident that Cushendall can send him off on a high note.

"They (Na Piarsaigh) have All-Stars in their teams and got beat by Loughgiel in the semi-final so they have been kicking about for the last few years as well.

"Obviously Limerick is a much more established team than Antrim in hurling terms and they have a lot of Limerick players there but to be honest we are confident in ourselves.

"Not in our ability, we're not saying we are far better or superior hurlers, but we just kind of know that when it gets tough we'll knuckle down and we'll not be reacting to things because of what we went through already in the last year.

"We're just very confident in ourselves."

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