Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Antrim have a Cunning plan

Paddy Cunningham
Paddy Cunningham

Paddy Cunningham epitomises the new breed of Antrim footballer.

Young, confident and talented, he’s not lacking in self belief.

And who can blame him for he and many of his colleagues have already enjoyed Sigerson success with UUJ and Queen's.

Now now he and his colleagues stand just 70 minutes away from an Ulster final meeting with Tyrone, but first things first and while optimistic there's no danger of him taking resurgent Cavan for granted in Saturday’s Ulster semi-final in Clones.

“We didn't dare think about meeting Cavan until we had overcome Donegal. Now the focus is very much on them and particular players like Seanie Johnston and Cian Mackey. They have some fantastic players and we're going to be up against it,” he said.

He considers being captain a rare privilege and a special honour which he doesn't take lightly. In a sense it was inevitable that he would one day wear the county colours for his father Paddy played football for both Antrim and Ulster. Both his mum and dad are heavily involved with the Hannahstown club and couldn't have been any more supportive as the young Cunningham's career began to take off.

“I've learned a lot from my dad. He's a football man through and through, but before matches he makes a point of leaving me to my own devices,” he said.

The younger Cunningham makes the point that the Saffrons actually travelled to Ballybofey convinced they could defy the 5/1 odds.

“I've no doubt the players always had the ability, but it's only now they are beginning to play with self belief. I wasn't surprised that we got a result in Ballybofey. I genuinely believed that if we could stay with them up until half time we were in with a great chance,” he said.

Like so many of his colleagues he's quick to acknowledge the contribution of a management team that has taken the team from Division Four to Division Three and now within touching distance of a rare and long overdue Ulster final appearance.

Cunningham explained: “Manager Liam Bradley and his assistant Niall Conway have been unbelievable in changing the mindset of Antrim football. There's a huge mutual respect between manager and players. Liam is very straight down the middle and tells you the way it is while Niall's training is second to none. With him there it's a joy to come to training.”

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