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Wallace is proving Antrim style guru

By Declan Bogue

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Wallace is proving Antrim style guruReady to go: Patrick McCloskey, Shane McNaughton, Michael Turley and Ryan Gaffney at the 2012 Hurling Championship launchA CHANGE in style between the ball-propelling traditions of Antrim hurling, and the favoured ball-carrying game of the Saffrons coach Jerry Wallace, is causing Shane McNaughton a few headaches but he praises the increased awareness that the Corkman has brought to this Antrim team.

Last weekend the Saffrons had arranged to play the Carlow under-21 team the day after a charity friendly against Ballyhale Shamrocks, but under pressure from clubs for players to take part in league fixtures, the county relented.

Nonetheless, McNaughton praised just what the former Cork and Limerick coach has brought in his first year of inter-county management, ahead of the Leinster Championship opener against Westmeath on May 19.

“He's an enthusiastic man so it's not hard to get enthusiastic whenever he's around” said the Ruairi Og, Cushendall player, who played his part in Sunday’s club win, 1-14 to 1-10, over St John’s.

“Everything is going well, it's going to plan, so we just have to sharpen it up in the next week before we meet Westmeath,” he said.

“He's introduced the running game more, the way he would have played it when he was with Cork. It's very tactical, he's always talking about tactics and he thinks that by the time you get to a county team, he shouldn't have to do any fitness. We are all men and we should be doing that ourselves, so he concentrates on the tactics.”

As you might expect from someone who enjoyed a long working relationship with Donal O’Grady, Wallace has an impressive knowledge of the opposition.

“He's very clued into other teams, he knows any player you are coming up against,” McNaughton said.

Wallace has also stamped his style on a team that were struggling to implement a long-ball game.

“Antrim don't have many good ball-winners in the forwards and if you're going to hit high balls in, you need ball-winners in there, so that's how Jerry has changed it.

“Before when we sent in big high balls we were just feeding off scraps. The ball was just bouncing off men,” said McNaughton.

“Whereas now it's all about finding space and being smarter. He's brought that into my game and everybody else's game.

“You're actually thinking about it more. Instead of just making runs, you're making smart runs.”

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