Liam Bradley wants his Antrim seniors to learn from U21s
Antrim football manager Liam Bradley is hoping that his side can reveal the same commitment and courage revealed by their Under-21 counterparts as they bid to haul themselves out of the bottom half of Division Four in the Allianz Football league.
The U21 side, managed by Frank Fitzsimmons, staged not one but two stunning comebacks in forcing a draw against Armagh in a riveting Ulster championship quarter-final tie that will now be replayed at Pairc Esler, Newry tomorrow night (8.00pm).
The Antrim young guns were seven points adrift with only a few minutes of normal time remaining but two spectacular goals from Ronan McGrady sealed a tremendous response that saw the sides deadlocked at the full-time whistle before his team again recovered a seemingly lost cause when they made good a six-point deficit in extra-time.
No wonder Bradley hopes that this esprit de corps becomes endemic in his senior squad in the wake of a league campaign that has to date only delivered disappointment and frustration.
"It was heartening to see the spirit and skill that these young boys showed against Armagh when they looked to be down and out," commented Bradley.
"Now the match will be replayed tomorrow night and if the senior side can replicate this kind of fighting spirit in their last two league games against London and Clare, you never know where it might take us."
While Bradley had intimated that he intends to call on some of the U21 squad, he is now likely to defer this move, at least for the London game this weekend, in order to allow the players to have some respite.
Meanwhile, U21 manager Fitzsimmons believes that his side will take heart from their performance at the Athletic Grounds for tomorrow's replay.
A vibrant team performance was embellished by some outstanding individual contributions with full-forward McGrady scoring 3-4 and Ryan Murray registering six points.
Murray might have stolen an improbable victory for his side in the dying seconds of extra-time but his shot just missed the target.
"It is a measure of his commitment that he was beating himself up afterwards because he had missed the target but he won us the free in the first place.
"We have to be more than grateful for that," states Fitzsimmons.
Armagh manager Steven McDonnell is hoping that midfield ace Ethan Rafferty will be fully fit for the tie and he will again place his scoring hopes on Paul McGeown, Micheal McKenna, Callum Comiskey and Ciaran O'Hanlon in attack.