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Paddy Cunningham sure Croke Park final won't faze Antrim

By John Campbell

Seven years ago, Paddy Cunningham captained the Antrim side that stretched Tyrone in the Ulster Senior Football Championship final before falling narrowly to Kerry in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

At the time, Cunningham predicted that the experience gained during what was Antrim's best Championship for many years would stand them in good stead.

Now the Lamh Dhearg clubman is convinced that the guile, craft and solid work ethic garnered through a campaign that brought the Saffrons enhanced status can prove the stepping stone to glory when they meet Louth in the Allianz League Division Three final at Croke Park on Saturday.

Conor Murray, Kevin Niblock, Sean Burke, Kevin O'Boyle, Niall McKeever, Justin Crozier, Tomas McCann and Michael McCann were all in the match-day squads for those games against Tyrone and Kerry and will be on duty again this weekend as they bid not only to help lift silverware but play a part in gaining a pre-Championship boost.

Cunningham said: "This list of players represents a raft of experience and I don't believe these boys will be overawed about having to perform in Croke Park. The teams may have drawn a few weeks ago in the league but that game will bear no comparison.

"When you think of the younger talent that has come into the side - like Ryan Murray and Niall Delargey - and you reflect on the outstanding consistency of boys like James Laverty, you know that Antrim won't be fazed by the test they will face."

Antrim have been joined by Armagh in Division Three next year but the 2017 league campaign is a dot on the horizon.

Cunningham added: "Saturday's game is all that is on the lads' minds. The bar has been raised and I feel the players are ready to meet the challenge."

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