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Derry star Patsy Bradley gears up for Dublin mission

By John Campbell

Not so long ago when the name 'P Bradley' appeared on the Derry teamsheet, everyone correctly assumed that it was Glenullin marksman supreme Paddy who was top scorer for over decade.

Then when 'P Bradley' appeared not just once but twice on the list there was an element of confusion initially before it was ascertained that the first-named was Slaughtneil midfield strongman Patsy.

Now we are back to having just one 'P Bradley' in the Derry side – and no one is in the slightest doubt as to just who that player is.

The redoubtable Patsy is currently playing some of the best football of his career and is gearing up for one of the biggest challenges of his career when he and his partner Fergal Doherty come up against the much-vaunted Dublin midfield in Sunday's Allianz League final at Croke Park.

Only one element of this match is certain right now – Bradley and Doherty will have to be at their combined best to restrict the influence of Dublin's Michael Darragh Macauley, currently jostling with Mark Lynch for the accolade of best player in the country.

It was the indefatigable Macauley who almost single-handedly plotted Dublin's semi-final win over Cork when he bagged the goal that brought his side back into the game, subsequently won a bountiful supply of possession at midfield and helped to close out the game via his frenetic work-rate.

Yet if Macauley was deservedly hailed at the end of the match for a virtuoso performance, it should not be forgotten that the lion-hearted Bradley bravely helped to hold the fort for Derry after the 23rd dismissal of Doherty following his rash challenge on Mayo's Aidan O'Shea.

Bradley had previously formed the Derry midfield pairing with the rising PJ McCloskey before the latter fell victim to a cruciate ligament injury which could keep him out of yet another championship as injury deprived him of summer action in 2011 and 2012.

Then when Doherty was recalled to the side, the pair formed an alliance which manager Brian McIver believes can prove a rich source of possession.

Bradley's ability to win 'dirty' ball, to put in big hits and to track back relentlessly makes him central to McIver's overall strategy.

Nor is the Slaughtneil man in the least concerned as to what role he is asked to fulfil when he dons the Derry jersey.

"I am only too happy to be in the side. It's great to be going to Croke Park to play in a league final. I think we have won the league something like seven times in the last 20 years and maybe we can improve on that record even further on Sunday," smiles Bradley.

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A leading Armagh official has called for a concerted show of unity as the team prepares for the forthcoming Ulster Championship assignment against Cavan at the Athletic Grounds.

The Orchard County suffered relegation to Division Three following a disappointing league campaign and injuries threaten to undermine their prospects of gaining salvation in the championship.

But county board vice-chairman Michael Geoghegan is urging "all true supporters" to get behind the team.

"Let's be clear, we need the goodwill of everyone at this point in time," raps Geoghegan, "Obviously we have had our share of setbacks but we are right behind our management in what they are trying to achieve.

"When you have had the kind of injuries we have had it's very difficult to make headway but the we believe that a better picture will emerge in as the game against Cavan approaches."

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