Pride a big spur for Antrim
Antrim football manager Liam Bradley is well on the way to achieving the primary goal which he set for himself when he succeeded Jody Gormley in his role.
Bradley then vowed to restore pride within Antrim and now that his team have already gained promotion to Division Three of the National League and are in pole position to be crowned Division Four champions, he feels he has gone some distance towards reaching his goal.
But the Glenullin man will not be happy until Antrim are confirmed as “a respectable force”, as he puts it, in a championship context.
Antrim share with Kerry the distinction of being the only two undefeated sides in the National League and following this week-end’s game, they will confront Sligo tomorrow week hoping to get their hands on the Division Four prize.
And while Bradley is conscious that these short-term goals are crucial to his team’s well-being, he is even more aware that Antrim’s renewed credibility will be put to the biggest test when they confront Donegal in the Ulster Championship at Ballybofey on June 14.
“It’s the last of the quarter-finals so we will know by then how other teams in the rpovince are shaping up and the extent of the challenge we face. But our focus will be very much on our own performance. I am happy enough with the headway we have been making but there is always big room for improvement,” states Bradley.
While Antrim remain unbeaten in the league, there are of course quite a few teams between them in terms of league placings.
Victory against a Waterford side that battled ferociously before just being pipped by Sligo last Sunday would be another considerable feather in the Saffrons’ cap but not quite as important perhaps as a win over the Yeats County in Sunday week’s Division Four final in Longford.
While Antrim fans are already eagerly anticipating this contest, Bradley is keeping the minds of his players very focussed.
“We don’t want to take our foot of the pedal at this stage,” muses Bradley, “The league is far from done and dusted.”
Bradley himself received quite a spur recently when he won the Ulster GAA Writers Association monthly merit prize for March following his team’s impressive consistent run.
But while the Glenullin man welcomed the accolade, that’s nothing to the plaudits he himself will heap on his side should they emerge as Division Four kingpins.
“Obviously we are delighted to have got promotion already but we want to end our campaign on a high and that means two more victories,” insists Bradley.
Players like Sean McVeigh, Michael McCann, Aodhan Gallagher, Justin Crozier, Tony Scullion and skipper Paddy Cunningham will again assume the mantle of responsibility as Antrim continue their quest to emerge as a side of more enhanced stature.
Bradley has not been slow to introduce new blood into the side, either, with Darren Edwards, James Loughrey and Michael Pollock having made a big impact since coming in.
This has had the effect of stepping up competition for places and this is something that pleases Bradley.
“I want boys chomping at the bit to play for Antrim. To date, the squad has shown great resolv,” says Bradley.