Bradley vows to help Derry back on track
A stunning first-half performance by Derry's Eoin Bradley against Down on Sunday had all but assured this dynamic forward of the man of the match award.
Up until then, the Glenullin clubman had been a tour de force, a constant thorn in the side of a beleaguered Mourne defence.
But it was a different story after the break when James McCartan's blistering half-time rhetoric was translated into action by his rearguard with Bradley obliged to drift further out from the posts in search of the ball thus nullifying the threat he posed.
Ahead of what an important team meeting tonight, Bradley makes no excuses for his team's failure to sustain their momentum for the entire contest.
"We just didn't start in the second half," he says with typical candour. "Down's first goal was a real sucker punch and we never really recovered from it and then when they got another it was all over."
Prior to the break, Bradley had whipped the Celtic Park gallery into a frenzy by scoring four majestic points, coming close to grabbing what could have proven a crucial goal and providing valuable assists for his equally hungry colleagues.
It was a display calculated to warm the hearts of the Oak Leaf faithful who have all but forgotten what championship success tastes like yet it was to prove nothing more than a false dawn – a fact recognised by Bradley himself.
"We have only ourselves to blame, we can't lay the fault at anyone else's door," he reflects.
"The difference was that in the first-half we played as a team whereas this was not the case after the break. I don't know why this was the case but look, it's done and dusted now. We will get back to re-group tonight for the qualifiers but obviously we would just love to be still in the Ulster Championship."
For a player who missed last year's championship in tandem with his brother Paddy because of serious injuries, Sunday's result proved particularly hard for the Oak Leaf full-forward to take.
"We will be re-joining our clubs now to get more games under our belts while the build-up to the qualifiers continues and obviously we would hope to make headway through the back door," points out Bradley.
"We haven't become a bad team overnight but we have things to take on board from this game against Down. We thought we were in with a big chance but they bossed the second-half, no question."
With Sean Leo McGoldrick unable to start because of illness, Patsy Bradley not quite up to full match fitness following his recent injury and Ryan Bell's inexperience at Ulster Championship level brought into focus, Derry struggled in the middle third of the park after the break.
It was from here that the Down victory surge had its origins and now Derry boss Brian McIver will undertake a close study of resources in this sector for the qualifiers. "We were cleaned out there in the second-half which meant that our forwards did not get the possession they needed," admits McIver.