No pain for Bradley in Antrim selection headache
Antrim manager Liam Bradley will find himself coping with a not unpleasant problem in the very near future.
With no fewer than seven of the St Gall’s side that won the AIB All Ireland Club Championship title expected to return to the Saffrons panel, Bradley’s enhanced resources will ensure he is confronted with selection posers.
Colin Brady, Andrew McClean, Kevin Niblock, Sean Kelly, C J McGourty, Sean Burke and Terry O’Neill are all due to resume inter-county duty having earned Antrim, Ulster and All Ireland Club championship medals with St Gall’s.
Brady captained the Milltown club on the most successful voyage in their 100-year history and he is also the current Antrim captain, although he has yet to play for the side in the National League.
Such an influx of skill and experience might normally guarantee automatic selection, but in the absence of this platoon of talent Antrim have still managed to remain unbeaten in Division Three of the league.
That’s because players like Dermot McCann, Deaghlan O’Hagan, Aaron Douglas, Brendan Herron, Michael Magill and Ciaran Close have stepped up smartly to the mark, helping their side to victory over Sligo, Cavan, Fermanagh and Roscommon.
Another win tomorrow over Offaly in Tullamore would virtually guarantee Antrim a place in Division Two next year and further intensify the competition for places in the forthcoming Ulster Championship in which they are due to meet Tyrone in the opening round.
The form of Douglas at full-back and O’Hagan at wing-back has been particularly impressive while Herron has been a revelation in midfield.
Magill, however, misses tomorrow’s game because of back and hamstring problems and could be out for six weeks.
He has made a telling contribution to Antrim’s league run and Conor Murray now replaces him with Gerard O’Boyle moving to full-forward.
Sean McGreevey takes over from John Finucane in goal and James Loughrey continues in the half-forward division as the Saffrons strive to earn promotion for a second successive season — something manager Bradley feels is within their gambit.
“I would hope that we can return from Tullamore tomorrow with the two points we need,” said Bradley.
“That would obviously help us towards getting promotion, but our aim is still to win every match which we play in the league.”