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Bradley key to opening up the Kingdom

It's eight years since Derry last contested a National Football League final. A lot of players have worn the county jersey in the interim but few with the degree of composure and authority epitomised by Paddy Bradley.

The Glenullin sharpshooter may have been held scoreless when his side met Galway recently but any notion that his impotence might linger was emphatically banished when he subsequently masterminded the downfall of Tyrone.

Now Bradley finds himself in the vanguard of the Derry attack that will come up against Kerry's mean defence in Sunday's National League final at Parnell Park, Dublin (2.15pm).

When the sides met at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney a few weeks ago Bradley ran the show for a spell before being reined in.

Even so, Derry were decidedly unfortunate to lose by a point - a defeat that left a distinctly sour taste in Oak Leaf mouths. They had Francis McEldowney rather unfairly sent off and were eventually left deflated when Bryan Sheehan steered over the injury-time free that clinched Kerry's victory.

As Derry's scorer-in-chief, Bradley will again come in for close attention from a Kerry rearguard in which senior citizens such as Aidan O'Mahoney and Tom O'Sullivan still wield considerable influence.

Steel and style underscore the Kerry approach, particularly when a trophy is on offer. In the past, Kerry rarely flexed their muscles with any degree of enthusiasm in the National League but such is the level of competition for places in the side and the desire to be part of a potential three-in-a-row triumph come September that the Kingdom are already in top drive with the summer still to arrive.

Even with some of their frontline troops still out, Kerry still offer a menacing façade. Dara O Sé, Tómas O Sé and Ciaran Donaghy epitomise brain and bulk while Colm Cooper might just make his presence in attack again felt after his sojourn in the United States that has precluded him from playing an active part in the league to date.

Derry, for their part, will aim to provide Bradley and his colleagues - particularly Conleith Gilligan, Mark Lynch and Collie Devlin - up front with the necessary ammunition to fire holes in Kerry's morale.

Kingdom boss Pat O'Shea has made it clear that he would like the league title and the indications are that this will be a championship contest in everything but name.

"We have a lot of players who are very hungry not only to play for the county but to continue to deliver success. They will get their chance again on Sunday against a Derry side that gave us one of our toughest matches in the league to date," points out O'Shea.

Belfast Telegraph


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