McNaughton: Antrim camp 'was not a happy one'

Antrim hurler Shane McNaughton has revealed the Saffrons were distracted by off-pitch matters in the lead up to their recent Leinster SHC opener against Westmeath.

Antrim hurler Shane McNaughton has revealed the Saffrons were distracted by off-pitch matters in the lead up to their recent Leinster SHC opener against Westmeath.

Antrim lost by two points to a Westmeath side that played the majority of the game with 14 men after the dismissal of Conor Jordan in the 30th minute. Indeed, the Ulstermen squandered a five-point interval lead.

Speaking at yesterday's launch of the Etihad Skyline at Croke Park, McNaughton says the mood in the Saffrons camp was not as good as it should have been.

"In the weeks leading up to that match there was a few external issues," he revealed.

"Training sessions were getting disrupted with different matters that didn't really concern the team. It could have went a lot plainer.

"But we can't take anything away from Westmeath who thoroughly deserved it. They brought a different type of physicality and intensity that we just didn't match on the day.

"We went six points ahead, but after the fracas lads seemed to start focusing more on fighting off the ball instead of concentrating on our hurling which we were doing very well up until that point."

Since the defeat McNaughton's father Terence has stepped down as a senior selector to concentrate on his role with the county's minor hurlers, while players Cormac Donnelly and Simon McCrory have also quit the squad.

"Those boys all have their own reasons why they have left. Cormac is suspended for two months and unless we make an All-Ireland semi-final or final he wouldn't be back," explained McNaughton.

"My dad was more focused on the minors and that was always his priority. At the end of the day we can only work with what we have.

"We have a great bunch of lads there and we'll try and get something out of this summer. It hasn't started very well, but it can turn around very quickly."

Antrim must wait until June 23 for their next game and McNaughton says it can be hard to keep a focus with such a gap between Championship games.

"You are waiting around for a long time and you are watching matches on TV when you would rather be playing in them.

"Once we find out who we are playing everyone will get a focus on what we are coming up against.

"People can get very disinterested because there is such a long gap between games. We can only do what we are doing.

"We are going down to Cork for a few challenge games and that will keep our heads in the game."

McNaughton was thrilled to take to the rooftop of Croke Park yesterday, as a hurler from each of the Liam MacCarthy Cup tier counties got a chance to do the Skyline tour.

"I'm delighted to see what it is all about. There's some magnificent views and also the Poc Fada contest we had today in aid of the Suicide Awareness Support Group in Belfast.

"I have a lot of close ties to that group, and it's a great day for everyone concerned," he added.

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