Antrim comeback kid Magill hungry to make big impact
Michael Magill has cause to remember his last morsel of Championship action with Antrim for all the wrong reasons.
Deployed as a late substitute in an All-Ireland qualifier replay against Kildare at Casement Park in 2010, he could do little to stem a tidal wave of attacks that saw the Saffrons submerged in a morale-shattering 1-15 to 0-9 defeat.
Magill subsequently left Liam Bradley’s panel and spent last year working in England, his loss acutely felt in a lightweight attack.
But when he returned some time ago manager Bradley had no hesitation in reinstating the burly Tir na Nog (Randalstown) man in his squad.
And now Magill, who stands at over six feet tall and weighs in excess of 14 stone, has been handed a key role for Sunday’s Ulster Championship quarter-final against Monaghan.
He will fill the full-forward berth where Bradley believes that his ball-winning ability and even more importantly his strength in retaining possession can prove central to his team’s strategy.
Magill played some of his best games in the Antrim jersey in 2010 when he helped to pilot the side into Division Two of the league before they dropped down a division the following year where they have remained since.
Monaghan have now joined the Saffrons in Division Three having suffered relegation for a second successive year but Magill, a superb hurler who has also represented his county in this code in the past, suggests that this will make Eamonn McEnaney’s side even more determined to win on Sunday.
“Monaghan will feel they have a big point to make. They will be on their own ground and they have a good mix of youth and experience in their side. But there is a good sense of togetherness within this Antrim squad and as Liam Bradley says we are not travelling to make up the numbers,” states Magill.
At 29, he is one of the most experienced players in the side, capable of moving outfield should the situation demand.
But Bradley clearly feels that he will pose a big threat to Monaghan the closer he is positioned to their posts.
“It’s important that we get quality ball into the likes of Micheal and Paddy Cunningham. We need to do this if we are to have a chance. We will be trying to avoid turnovers and we hope to put pressure on the Monaghan defenders when they are in possession and make life difficult for them,” stresses Bradley.
Magill has provided enough evidence to date this year to suggest that he could prove a hugely influential player in this Antrim side.
“Michael is very focused and hard to shake off the ball which is what you want in a target man. It would be true to say that he was missed last year and it’s good to see him in a pivotal role for Sunday,” points out PRO Brendan Mulgrew.
“The more experience a team can bring to the table in the Championship, the better.”