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Bradley believes Antrim can now take that final step to Ulster title glory

For Liam Bradley the bigger picture has always been the Championship and the opportunity to pit his wits against the bigger boys.

With the big, articulate Glennulin man at the helm Antrim were the surprise packets of last season’s championship, losing to Tyrone in the Ulster decider after victories over both Donegal and Cavan.

Only eventual All Ireland champions Kerry ended their fairy-tale championship run at the quarter- final stage despite a wonderfully crafted Tony Scullion (pictured) goal.

The Saffrons enjoyed a decent run in Division Three of the league culminating in promotion to Division Two though they lost the Division Three decider to old adversaries Sligo.

Bradley, father of Derry stars Eoin and Paddy, has long consigned that result to history and now the whole focus is on Sunday week’s championship showdown with defending champions Tyrone, a repeat of the 2009 provincial decider.

“From as far back as our first training session in the cold and frost in January the championship has always been my priority.

“The championship has a magic all of its own. It’s summer time, the crowds come out and everyone wants to see good football.

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“Our aim is to get a good run — something similar to last year — but we have a very tough opener against the holders. It’s something we relish rather than fear. We’ve moved up a couple of gears in the last few seasons.

“Slowly but surely we’re taking small steps, but the biggest step of all will be on May 23 when we face Tyrone in Casement Park. We’ve worked extremely hard and hopefully that will be good enough to see us through,” he said.

In fairness to the Saffrons boss, he offers no excuses for the defeats the team suffered in the Allianz League, losing to Offaly, Wexford and Sligo.

The difference between the league and championship is akin to comparing day with night, but those three defeats are a constant reminder of the mountain the Saffrons must climb if they are to threaten Tyrone’s domination of the provincial championship.

But Bradley remains defiantly upbeat.

“We’re now heading into a new competition and any one of nine teams can win it so I believe we’re in with a big shout,” he said.

“Touch wood we’re free of injuries and we’ve just returned from an excellent and very worthwhile training weekend.”

The man who only recently led his club to Derry championship honours isn’t one for looking back or having regrets. Instead it’s very much a case of upwards and onwards.

“As a person I’m very competitive and I don’t like losing any games, even challenge matches, but it’s our policy to focus on the next game. That’s always the one you worry about.

“We’re looking to the future with confidence as we genuinely believe we’ve as good a side as anyone in Ulster. We were underdogs for most of our games last season and I don’t see that changing in the weeks ahead.

“I see we’re rated at 25/1 to win the Ulster championship and those odds are a total joke. I would be telling a lie if I didn’t say we’re a bit annoyed with that, but hopefully it will spur our boys on.”


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