Semi-finals spur comeback men Rogers and Bradley
Two of Ulster’s most high-profile players, who have both been out of action for the past year, are ready to help their counties reach the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup semi-finals tonight.
Paddy Bradley returned to the Derry side that beat UUJ on Saturday night while Ambrose Rogers was back in action for Down in their handsome win over Monaghan on Sunday both having fully recovered from cruciate ligament injuries.
Now the prospect of reaching the semi-finals has particular significance for both players as it offers the prospect of even more action in January prior to the National League beginning on February 4.
Bradley will get game time against Donegal tonight when Derry seek to extend their unbeaten record while Rogers will line out against St Mary’s at Pairc Esler, Newry in a game in which James McCartan’s side are confidently expected to clinch their place in the last four.
And indeed, should both Down and Derry triumph, then they will meet in the semi-finals on Sunday with the possibility of Tyrone and Fermanagh meeting for the second time in five days in the other last four clash.
Bradley, clearly delighted with the reception he received from Oak Leaf fans on Saturday, is anxious to build up his match fitness for the league.
“It was encouraging to get a couple of nice early touches. I eventually ended up with 1-1 and I was happy with that but I won’t be rushing things,” said Bradley.
Derry boss John Brennan, aware that Bradley’s famed scoring touch can bolster his side, shares the player’s caution.
“It’s great to have him back, but there are big challenges ahead. We will certainly need him for those,” declared Brennan.
Rogers, meanwhile, may figure at wing-forward for Down against St Mary’s tonight as manager McCartan carries out a further assessment of his midfield options.
The Longstone clubman is relishing the challenge of resurrecting his county career.
“I appreciate any time that I get to spend in the Down jersey. When you have been out for a long period you enjoy playing even more when you get back. I hope to get game time tonight and then we will see how things go,” said Rogers.
In tonight’s other games, Antrim manager Liam Bradley will look at some more fringe players against Queen’s at Casement Park while Armagh boss Paddy O’Rourke may give John Kingham, impressive against St Mary’s on Sunday, another run-out at midfield against struggling Monaghan at the Morgan Athletic Grounds.
Cavan and UUJ still have an outside chance of reaching the semi-finals although when they meet at Kingspan Breffni Park whoever wins will need to do so by a thumping margin to have any chance of entering the semi-final frame.