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Donegal ace Murphy backs Antrim revival

By John Campbell

New Antrim manager Liam Bradley has received a boost from an unexpected source.

The Glenullin man is tasked with attempting to haul the Saffrons out of Division Four of the Allianz League and rekindling the fervour and passion that accompanied their exciting championship journey when he was in charge in 2009.

That's a tall order by any standards and the fact that Bradley's attacking resources have received strong backing from 2012 Donegal All-Ireland winning captain Michael Murphy provides him with a further fillip as he engages in formulating his 2014 panel.

Murphy, who will have a key role for Glenswilly against Roslea in the Ulster club championship semi-final on Sunday, believes that if the Antrim attack plays to its full potential in the early part of the year then promotion could prove well within the team's grasp.

"I think that Antrim tend to be under-rated," said Murphy. "I feel that individually they have some fine players and I would put Kevin Niblock at the top of this list.

"He is a creator of chances and also a very polished finisher. In fact, I think he is one of the best players in the country."

Having declared that the Antrim door is "open to all", Bradley (pictured) is preparing to recall players such as Niall McKeever, Michael Magill, Michael McCann, Tomas McCann, CJ McGourty and Tony Scullion who have not been in the squad for various reasons of late.

The Saffrons lost their way this summer when they fell to Monaghan in the Ulster championship and then surrendered to Louth in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

The county board subsequently ratified the appointment of the then manager Frank Dawson for another year, but he surprisingly stepped down shortly afterwards and is now in charge of Down club Bryansford.

Now Murphy believes that Antrim are capable of replicating the consistency they showed under Bradley when he was previously in charge.

"Liam obviously worked on Antrim's mind-set and had the players thinking positively. I think that someone like Niblock could have a big influence within the side and could bring out the best in those around him. He uses the ball well, is very intelligent and could perhaps make the attack tick," said Murphy.

With Bradley's son Paddy already entrusted with the task of bringing a new dimension to the Antrim attack, Murphy suggests an enhanced scoring ratio could spark meaningful progress.

"Antrim need to step up their scoring and they are well capable of doing this. At the same time they cannot afford to concede too may goals. They have the players to get them on the road to promotion and I believe Kevin Niblock can play a big part in masterminding this," added Murphy.

With CJ McGourty having expressed a desire to give fresh commitment to Antrim and Tony Scullion clearly relishing the possibility of a return, the Saffrons squad is set to take on a much more experienced hue.

Bradley is understood to have sounded out a number of other players as he bids to erase the gloom and uncertainty which has prevailed within the county lately.

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