Belfast Telegraph

Wee Sam Bradley is one young man deserving of all your support

By Declan Bogue

Memories. Sometimes they elude you with the passing of time.

I was considering some of my earliest memories playing Gaelic football and recalled my father standing behind the goals at the old Tempo field during parish league matches, when children from the two schools in Pobal parish would be split into three teams – Maguires, Harps and Shamrocks – to play a three-way tournament.

He would tell me to "look lively" and "put up your collar". Only now do you realise that he was having his own mischief and fun.

Either way, my mother and father traipsed around the county and country to watch me and my siblings play sports and music. Great times.

I remember Colm Bradley at that age. In 1987, Enniskillen Gaels were facing Roslea Shamrocks – team of the decade member Peter McGinnity and all – in the Fermanagh county final. The Gaels captain was Vincie Corrigan who had married into my mother's people, so we had a vested interest. Colm Bradley was a team mascot but he never made it for the photo, instead trying to kick the ball over the bar at the town end of the pitch.

As a child, Colm barely left Brewster Park. His father Ben was a fixture and his elder brother Simon was a child prodigy.

The curtain-raiser for the Fermanagh senior final has always been the county under-16 final and Enniskillen were also featuring in that.

Despite being eligible, Simon only played the last 10 minutes of the juvenile final as he was needed to play for the seniors. He kicked three points as the Gaels won 0-7 to 0-5 and uncle Vincie was able to accept the spectacularly-named New York Gold Cup with blood streaming from his nose. We thought he was Rambo.

Born into that kind of legacy, it was hardly a surprise that Colm would become a county footballer.

He was Pat King's 'secret weapon' when Fermanagh won their first Championship match in eight years in 1999, a schoolboy substitute terrorising the Monaghan defence and setting up a Raymie Gallagher point.

As the years went on he established himself on the team. Fermanagh fans will never forget the round two qualifier in Brewster Park, 2004.

With time up and Meath a point ahead he took a sideline kick on the right touchline, bending it over and forcing extra-time and an eventual victory.

Although as the years roll on the angle creeps closer to the endline with every telling. It was actually from the 14 metre line.

What a pity it does not exist in YouTube world, but feats such as this were enough to earn an All-Star nomination.

By the time he realised the commitment he had to give, injuries were already tripping him up.

But football is only a strand of life and Colm married Michelle from Mayo and before long their first child Sam arrived.

While his former team mates such as Shane McCabe, Ryan McCluskey and Marty McGrath have recently discovered the delights of fatherhood, Colm's experience have been an unending rota of treatments, meetings with doctors, rented houses and a high level of anxiety ever since Sam was diagnosed with high-risk Neuroblastoma in January.

This Saturday, each Ulster county will come together for a Sevens tournament in Brewster Park in aid of the Sam Bradley Care Fund.

The rules are that all players had to have played county football in the 90s, which means there will be dozens of All-Ireland medals jangling in the back pockets of men such as Joe Brolly, Mickey Linden and Martin McHugh.

It will be a laugh and a joke for the first 30 seconds, and then their competitive edge will kick in.

It begins at 3pm and will be well worth seeing.

This is what happens when someone in the GAA community is in trouble.

People put their hand up, they give up their spare time and they dig deep into their reserves of money and time to help out one of their own.

This is the Big Society in action.

While the day in itself will trigger much nostalgia and memories, the purpose of it is to raise funds for the treatment of Sam.

Last Friday evening, Sam helped out as the draw for the groups was made in the Brewster Park clubhouse.

Later the senior team were training on the main pitch and he stood behind the goals, fetching and kicking footballs. Just like his father and uncle before him.

Sam can have those memories, but only if we turn out in force and support the cause. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Belfast Telegraph

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