Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Conlon senses Antrim success

Mickey Conlon is no stranger to All Ireland success.

He was Ballinderry’s keeper when they captured the All Ireland club title in 2002 with victory over Nemo Rangers.

Now as Antrim’s goalkeeping coach he’s hoping that success can rub off on the Saffrons.

He has a wealth of experienced having played for both Derry and Ballinderry, winning an Ulster championship medal with the county in 1998 as well as an Ulster club and four Derry championship medals.

“From the first moment I met the squad I could sense there was a lot of quality there and I had a feeling that it was going to be a special year,” said Conlon.

“I had worked with Niall Conway before and knew just how good a coach he is with great management skills.

“Liam Bradley, Niall and Paddy McNeill complement each other so that training is very well organised and structured.”

Conlon still talks fondly of his club’s 2002 success. It meant so much to everyone and in a small rural community there was a real sense of achievement.

Antrim manager Liam Bradley contacted Conlon in December offering him the chance to join his newly formed back up team.

From the moment he attended his first training session he has been an ever present and he’s loving every minute.

Like all the players he’s relishing the prospect of testing themselves against the All Ireland champions.

“We’ve prepared well and can’t wait for Sunday. Very few teams get a chance to play in a provincial final, let alone against the All Ireland champions,” he said..

“The training has been very constructive and to the point, a combination of four or five months of very hard and demanding work on the training pitch.”

Conway is a man of few words, but in recent times he has emerged as one of the most respected young coaches in the sport.

It was no coincidence that Bradley turned to him when drawing up his back up team.

Conway, as modest and unassuming as they come, is quick to acknowledge the influence of highly regarded coaches Dessie Ryan, Adrian McGuckin and Damian Barton.

The Ballinderry man announced his arrival on the national stage two seasons ago when he was coach to the Derry side that reached the All Ireland minor final.

He also guided Tyrone side Rock to an All Ireland club decider.

“Liam Bradley rang me in November asking me to come on board and it didn’t take me too long to make up my mind so I’m thrilled things have worked out so well,” said Conway.

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