'We need more consistency in the big parts of the game': Antrim's Michael Bradley
THE song remained the same - but the National League break offers Antrim an opportunity to iron out the kinks that have left them empty-handed after two patchy performances, insists midfielder Michael Bradley.
Back to back defeats against Kilkenny and Dublin were not an ideal start to a third successive year in Division One and, with a trip to Waterford up next on February 26, the Saffrons could do with releasing the pressure valve before a crunch clash against Laois at Corrigan Park.
As has been the case before, a lack of consistency killed them in those first two outings. After a slow start the Saffrons dragged themselves back into contention against the Cats, only for Derek Lyng’s men to pull away at the finish.
Parnell Park brought an inspired final 20 minutes, during which two goals from Keelan Molloy saw Antrim almost pull back a 10 point deficit after a previously passive performance looked like gifting Dublin a handy win.
The aggression and intensity of the press may have come too late in the day, but at least offers cause for cautious optimism as they get back to basics during the break.
“It’s disheartening - we’re going to have to learn not to hurl in spells,” said Bradley.
“We’re not happy just to be competing, so there is frustration that we maybe left it behind us. The key is the physicality. You can be the nicest hurler or whatever, but you have to bring the physicality and the work-rate.
“It’s all ruck balls out there, that’s something Dublin are really good at – that middle third, you have to be winning that if you want to get anything at this level.
“We need more consistency in the big parts of the game, because in that third quarter they got a run on us. We were massively out of the game there for a large part, in that third quarter we were down by 10 points and then came back into it.
“It showed a fair bit of spirit when you’re down like that, to get back into it and keep chipping away… you score the goal and then they come up and hit you for the next two plays. It’s disheartening.
“We’ll have to look at it through the week and hopefully get to the bottom of it. You’d look over it if we were getting hammered every weekend but when there’s only a few points in it, you scrutinise it more.
“It’s just the small things when you break it down, but it’s early still. We’ll keep pushing on and hopefully try to rectify them through the week.”
And, after something of a Jekkyl and Hyde start themselves, Antrim might fancy their chances of upsetting Waterford at Fraher Field.
Their opening draw with Dublin was followed by Saturday night’s victory over Laois, with Davy Fitzgerald’s side producing a storming finish to shake off the 14-man O’Moore County.
Indeed, last year the Saffrons were left kicking themselves after losing out to Waterford at Corrigan Park, with Deise goalkeeper Shaun O'Brien keeping a stoppage time penalty from Neil McManus out of the net to deny Antrim a share of the spoils.
“A puck of a ball maybe did us out of it last year,” said Bradley.
“But we have two weeks now, it’s an opportunity to work. It doesn’t get any easier – maybe the last few years, with respect to other teams, you maybe eyed your games and got other guys a run or whatever else.
“But we have two weeks of hard work ahead and we’ll be giving Waterford the respect we give any other team at this level.
“It’s like anything, you do it once and it maybe breaks the mentality. We’ve beat Clare in the past, we’ve run all these teams close, it’s maybe just hurling for the full 70, 75 minutes and getting more consistent performances.”