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Sam challenge does all talking for Antrim manager Liam Bradley

Liam Bradley

Antrim manager Liam Bradley will scarcely require to delve too deeply into his archive of motivational rhetoric as his team prepare to confront Down in the All-Ireland football qualifiers at Casement Park tomorrow (7.00).

The Glenullin man believes that the qualifier draw itself has provided all the motivation his side will need to make further progress in the competition.

"Tomorrow we will be facing Down who got to the All-Ireland final last year, and the winners of this game have already been drawn against Cork, the reigning champions, in round four of the qualifiers. Any player who is not sufficiently motivated by this dual challenge should not be playing football in the first place," raps Bradley.

For the third successive time in the qualifiers the Saffrons have home advantage and while Bradley welcomes this, he certainly does not view it as a stepping stone to victory.

"It's a bonus, yes, to be playing Down at Casement Park but they will feel very much at home there too, let's not forget that," insists Bradley.

Antrim, having already overcome Westmeath, lived dangerously against Carlow before winning by a point last Saturday after Paddy Cunningham and Mark Dougan were sprung from the bench to score 1-4 between them, while Down eventually glided to a 1-16 to 1-8 win over Mickey Moran's gallant Leitrim warriors in Newry, an eight-point third quarter blitz ushering them into the comfort zone.

Tomorrow Bradley will see an even bigger impact from Cunningham and Dougan as well as what he hopes will be a committed display from the fit-again Michael McCann. Skipper Kevin O'Boyle, rated highly by the Antrim boss, is expected to make the cut despite having battled against an injury throughout the week.

A majestic seven-point haul by the irrepressible Benny Coulter highlighted Down's win over Leitrim after they had endured some tricky passages, particularly after Adrian Croal rocketed in the Connacht side's goal just after half-time.

"I was very impressed with the way the boys hit back but I hope we don't make it as difficult for ourselves tomorrow. You cannot afford to concede goals in high-intensity championship matches - this only increases the pressure on teams," says manager James McCartan.

Conor Maginn and Damien Rafferty will get more game time for Down tomorrow while Liam Doyle, whose experience and sure passing shone through against Leitrim, can continue to improve following his length lay-off because of injury.

Belfast Telegraph