ANTRIM’S new Director of Hurling Neal Peden says he’s delighted that former Tipperary goalkeeper Darren Gleeson has been awarded the intercounty job, and says he was appointed solely on merit.
Driving home the point that Gleesan’s county of origin wasn’t perceived as an advantageous factor in itself, Peden says that Gleesan has already proven himself behind the scenes in the last two years in Antrim.
Peden, who was manager of the team during that time (initially as joint-manager with Dominic McKinley and Sambo McNaughton, Gary O’Kane and then by himself), witnessed first-hand Gleesan’s capabilities as a coach.
“Darren’s bringing loads of experience to the table and has shown his coaching capabilities in the last few years. He’s stepping into this new role and we feel he’s more than ready for.
“The players have really responded to him and he’ll have a good team behind him.”
Gleeson is the second Tipperary native to take charge of the Saffrons – Dinny Cahill had two stints as manager, while Liam Sheedy was involved in an advisory capacity last year.
Sheedy proved he’s still at the cutting edge of management when he guided Tipperary to the All-Ireland hurling title, and Gleeson was actually brought into Sheedy’s backroom when Antrim’s season ended with a Joe McDonagh Cup defeat to Westmeath back in June.
Peden commented: “When Liam came up here, he’d already been done, done that and bought the t-shirt. If you ever step into a changing room with Liam, his personality is infectious and the players responded to that.
“Darren has already been here with us for the last two years – we didn’t just pluck someone from down south for the sake of us. We’re more than happy to give him the opportunity.
“It’s different than in the past where we might gave gone looking for people, we’ve already seen what Darren can do and we’re looking forward to working with him and hopefully pushing the boys on.”
Gleeson’s appointment coincided with the news that Peden has been appointed Antrim’s first ever Director of Hurling. An official Antrim GAA statement described his new remit as follows:
“The appointment enhances the County’s commitment and drive to further the advancement of the Hurling.
“This is a major step forward in improving player development in Antrim from youth to adult level hurling. Creating a player potential pathway and official link between clubs, families, schools, universities and County teams is essential with player welfare central. “
Peden, who is is a former head of Physical Education, at Rathmore Grammar School says that it’s crucial that the most talented young hurlers don’t fall by the wayside in that crucial stage between leaving school and entering university or full-time employment.
“We’re looking to get young players ready for senior level so we want a pathway to bring young players through. We want to put in an actual plan and see it through.
“The drop off usually happens when they’re around 17 or 18 years old, they’re making their minds up about what they want to do and we want to keep them hurling so we’re bringing our best hurlers through.”