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Paddy Cunningham is still keen to fuel Antrim's growth

By John Campbell

Five years ago Paddy Cunningham skippered Antrim when they made an all-too-rare appearance in the Ulster senior football championship final against Tyrone. Today the 28-year-old schoolteacher, a long-serving player with the Lamh Dhearg club, is still fiercely committed to the Antrim cause, his marksmanship still a potent weapon within the side.

And Cunningham, never one to let the grass grow under his own feet, is anxious to see the post of county manager filled as quickly as possible so that what he views as "a good crop of young players" can be encouraged to make their mark at senior inter-county level.

In the Ulster Under-21 championship earlier this year, several Antrim players spawned the belief that they have the talent to reach a bigger stage and Cunningham believes that the sooner someone takes charge at senior level and assembles a fresh panel, the better.

"Obviously there is no guarantee that any of us who have been in the squad in the past will be included again but for the sake of the future of Antrim football, I would like to see some of the good crop of young players we have now brought in," states Cunningham.

"To my mind, they represent the future of Antrim football. Personally speaking, I am happy to play for whoever is appointed Antrim manager if I am selected. The important thing is that the team moves on."

Liam Bradley, who masterminded Antrim's arrival in that provincial decider five years ago and has just completed the second year of his second stint in charge, is understood to be still interested in remaining at the helm although he is currently on vacation and it is expected that no movement on the managerial front will be made until he returns.

It is believed that current Lamh Dhearg manager Frank Fitzsimmons is favoured by some clubs to take over from Bradley and it may well be that other contenders could still enter the field.

"The appointment of a manager is a matter for the county board to deal with so we must wait and see what happens," adds Cunningham.

"I have always regarded it as an absolute honour to have worn the county jersey and I hope to do so again.

"The fact that there is a fresh raft of talent coming through provides a timely boost and the hope is that the team can move on to better things in 2015."

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