Cunningham: Antrim no flash in the pan

Antrim captain Paddy Cunningham is hoping to lift the Anglo Celt Cup this Sunday in Antrim's first Ulster Senior Football Championship final appearance since 1970.c

Antrim captain Paddy Cunningham is hoping to lift the Anglo Celt Cup this Sunday in Antrim's first Ulster Senior Football Championship final appearance since 1970.

Reigning All-Ireland champions Tyrone provide the opposition for Liam Bradley's Antrim side in Clones this weekend. The game is historic for a couple of reasons, none more so than it is the first ever meeting of these counties in the Ulster SFC showpiece.

Cunningham has top-scored for the Saffrons, the conquerors of Donegal and Cavan, with eight points so far in this year's Championship.

The Lamh Dhearg clubman says that Antrim's appearance in this Sunday's decider is no flash in the pan.

He says the talented minor and Under-21 teams over the last few years have provided the backbone for the Saffrons' challenge at senior level.

"Myself and Michael McCann when we were Under-21s went very close to beating Tyrone down in Healy Park, and they went on to win the All-Ireland that year," Cunningham said.

"There's no doubting the potential and youthfulness in this team. We've come together and done very well to date so hopefully we can get a good performance against Tyrone in the final."

In recent years Antrim football has been blighted by player upheaval, but Cunningham explained that the positive energy surrounding this squad at present has them poised for another big performance.

"Everything has been good. The togetherness, belief and spirit in the team is fantastic," he said.

"There has been a lot of issues in previous years but without doubt everything has been going well this year and we are all pulling in the right direction which has been a big thing for us."

Antrim and Tyrone have only met 15 times in Ulster Championship history. Both teams have emerged victorious on six occasions, while there have been three draws.

They last locked horns in provincial action back in the 2003 Ulster semi-final, with the Red Hands emerging as 1-17 to 1-09 winners on the way to their first ever All-Ireland triumph.

Prior to that, they had not met since 1988. Antrim’s last Championship win over Tyrone was in the 1964 when they had four points to spare (1-08 to 0-07) in an Ulster preliminary round tie at Dungannon.

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