NEIL McManus has hurled his last for Antrim after making the decision to call time on a stellar career in the saffron jersey.
Speculation mounted after Antrim’s play-off win over Westmeath that it would be his last game and, in Wednesday’s in-depth feature interview with the Irish News, McManus confirmed his retirement from inter-county hurling.
It was a journey that began with Dominic ‘Woody’ McKinley and Terence ‘Sambo’ McNaughton’s golden generation of minor teams in the mid-noughties.
“Like the All-Blacks, we had them cleaning changing rooms, cleaning our tables when we were finished our dinner in the hotels,” McKinley proudly said of the minor group McManus was a focus point of.
“We were getting emails back from hotels about their behaviour, the way they brought their plates up and always said thank you.”
McManus made his senior debut in 2007. Year after year he was the glue in the Antrim team and always performed. Every day.
While never fulfilling the dream of helping Antrim to the heights of winning the Liam McCarthy Cup, his level of preparation and dedication knew no bounds.
Two Joe McDonagh Cup titles and multiple Ulster Championships were the reward for his efforts.
He was among a group of GAA stars who travelled to Africa this year on a fundraising drive to help those in need.
“I am so lucky to be able to still play at the highest level within Antrim. It is such a pleasure and it is a great bunch of lads to be involved with,” McManus said in an interview with Gaelic Life before last summer’s final defeat to Dunloy.
“From a personal point of view, hurling is still such a passion and I have been very fortunate to be doing it as long as I am.”
McManus now faces into a 20th season of club senior hurling as Cushendall aim to get their hands on the Volunteer Cup once again.