Antrim hurling in real danger: Terence McNaughton
Antrim hurling is in a perilous position and requires urgent attention to avoid becoming an irrelevancy on the national scene, according to one of its greatest ever warriors.
Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton is once again putting his powerful shoulder to the wheel as he joins up with his long-time ally Dominic 'Woody' McKinley, Gary O'Kane and Neal Peden to take charge of the senior team.
They stepped in when PJ O'Mullan resigned last April and, while they originally saw their role as temporary, they have now agreed to stay on.
Antrim hurling may have undergone extensive change - most of it for the worse - since McNaughton was last involved in senior team management (2007-09) but his willingness to call things as he sees them remains as pronounced as ever.
But then he is in no mood for sugar-coating at the end of a season where Antrim seniors finished in the bottom half of Division 2A (16th in overall rankings) and were beaten by Meath in a re-fixed Christy Ring Cup final.
Antrim minors lost to Galway by 20 points while Waterford beat the U21s by 20 points last Saturday.
"It's embarrassing. But then what can you expect? The U21s trained once. There's no point having the U21s and minors going straight into the All-Ireland semi-finals or quarter-finals because they're not ready for it," said McNaughton.
"Antrim hurling will die unless something is done. There's a real apathy around and that's dangerous. I wish I didn't give a damn and just sit in a bar and talk rubbish about it as some do.
"I'm not like that. And neither is 'Woody' or the other lads. It means an awful lot to us, which is why we're going to try and do something. I think it's time for local people to take charge.
"We're not going in for money or glamour. We're doing it because we love hurling. We'll bring back old-fashioned values of commitment and effort, pride in the Antrim jersey. You're either giving full commitment or you're out."
Support from the Ulster Council and Croke Park is important for Antrim's long-term future but it has to be properly focused.
"You'll hear some people saying that it's great to see the likes of Armagh and Tyrone improving, coming close to Antrim. The reality is that we've gone back to their level. But does anyone outside Antrim care?" he said.
"Do they care if we fall away? You wonder. We're not looking for hand-outs, just support to help a county where there's passion. Hurling will be the loser if Antrim doesn't come back."