Liam Sheedy hopes Saturday’s game between Antrim and Tipperary to open Davitt Park on Belfast’s Falls Road can generate more promotion for Gaelic games in the city and county.
Gaelfast, the €1m five-year initiative to bolster the engagement levels with the GAA in Belfast and the county under the stewardship of Paul Donnelly, has already seen foundations laid across all communities in the city.
Sheedy’s association with Antrim stems back to 2017 when he assisted with their Celtic Challenge team.
That same year, he was approached by his fellow Hurling 2020 committee member Sambo McNaughton and Gary O’Kane who convinced him to help out McNaughton’s senior hurling backroom team in July 2017 and he remained a part of the set-up for the 2018 season.
His fellow Portroe man Darren Gleeson, who Sheedy brought in as goalkeeping coach in 2018, is now manager and Sheedy’s affection for the county is obvious.
“When I was up there I went into the social centre in Casement Park and when Darren and myself were in there they played ‘Slievenamon’.
“There’s a really good core of GAA people up there and it’s sad when you see what Casement Park has turned into over the last couple of years.
I certainly do think having their flagship stadium there resurrected will help them and hopefully it will be addressed in the next few years.
“Going up there as All-Ireland champions, if it only helps a few of the kids or gets a few more supporters to get behind Antrim it’s beneficial. I do think the game needs to flourish in more counties and Antrim is a sleeping giant in that regard.
“We’re opening up Davitt’s field and we’ll get loads out of it and hopefully Antrim will too in building for the future and what the GAA can become in Antrim in the future.”
After comfortable opening wins against Wicklow and Mayo, the test provided by Tipperary will be ideal preparation for Antrim ahead of their Division 2A promotion clash with Offaly in Tullamore on Sunday week.
Sheedy anticipates a rise in Saffron fortunes in the not too distant future.
There are probably still untapped in terms of potential but they’ve a lot of players in (available) this year.
“There are a lot of structures being put in place around the county especially with the Gaelfast initiative so I like to think things are coming together for them this year and beyond.”