It is said that misfortune tends to come in threes — and Antrim manager Liam Bradley is likely to concur with this sentiment.
His team have lost the last three finals in which they have participated, tasted defeat in three of their last four National League games and have three players who did not make the starting line-up for Saturday’s Division Three final against Sligo, now ravenous for places against Tyrone in the Ulster Championship next month.
Statistics more often than not provide a meaningful barometer of a team’s progress but Bradley is not quite consumed by figures at the moment. Instead, he is strongly focused on restoring morale, repairing defensive deficiencies and seeking greater cohesion in attack for the showdown with Tyrone on May 23.
“Our Championship fate is in our own hands. We can knuckle down and be right for the occasion or we can fall by the wayside,” said Bradley. “I think I can say with confidence that people will see a different Antrim side against the Red Hands.”
He is undoubtedly speaking in terms of morale, attitude and commitment here but there is also the strong possibility that fresh personnel may be on duty.
Brendan Herron’s ankle ligament damage may force him to miss the clash with Mickey Harte’s side but with Aaron Douglas, Gerard O’Boyle and Kevin Niblock pressing for places, Bradley is not devoid of alternative talent.
“While we have not done as well as we would have wished, we still have reached Division Two and we have four weeks in which to prepare fully for the Tyrone game,” asserts Bradley.
l ALL Ireland winning captain Brian Dooher has returned to Tyrone training for the first time since last summer’s All Ireland semi-final defeat by Cork.
Dooher had been struggling to recover from a recurring groin injury and his return is a huge boost for manager Mickey Harte.
And providing there are no last minute setbacks he could make Tyrone’s championship opener against Antrim in three weeks time.
But Ryan McMenamin had to go off with an ankle injury while playing for his club Dromore against Galbally last night.