Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA Derry

Bradley is targeting a key role in Derry's glory bid

By John Campbell

Eoin Bradley is determined to make up for lost time in Derry's colours - and that could bode ill for Down.

When the sides met in the Ulster Championship two years ago, Bradley landed 0-4 but it was Down who triumphed by 2-17 to 2-15 and when they renewed their rivalry in the All-Ireland qualifiers a few weeks later, Glenullin clubman Bradley bagged two points and was instrumental in securing his team's 0-13 to 1-5 victory.

When the teams meet once again in the provincial quarter-final at Celtic Park on Sunday, 31-year-old sharpshooter Bradley is hoping to make a decisive impact.

His commitments with Glenavon meant that he was only able to play "for little more than an hour" in the Allianz League, according to county board spokesman Dermot McPeake.

With relegation having been Derry's lot in the league, the desire for success in the championship has been considerably sharpened and Bradley is seen as a key figure in helping his county claim credibility in a competition which they last won in 1998.

If his league game time was limited, then Bradley's commitment is as fierce as ever.

In the only league match he started, he scored 0-3 against Tyrone but sustained an injury against Monaghan before seeing action in the win over Cork in Derry's last match in the competition when he hit a brace of points.

Eleven years have elapsed since Bradley was initially summoned into the Oak Leaf squad by then manager Mickey Moran and while injuries and soccer commitments both with Coleraine and Glenavon have curtailed his involvement for spells, his loyalty to the Derry jersey remains strong.

"I really want to play championship football for Derry," stressed Bradley. "We want to try and make up for getting relegated in the league and getting a win over Down on Sunday would be a great boost."

Manager Brian McIver concedes that the absence of "a wee bit of experience" was a contributory factor to Derry's fall from grace in the league.

"We have some of our more experienced players back now and this has to be seen as a positive going into the Ulster Championship," pointed out McIver.

"We could have been doing with a wee bit of experience in the league but having said that we were able to assess other players and now they are pushing for championship places."

With Cailean O'Boyle, James Kielt, Emmet McGuckin, Enda Lynn, Benny Heron, Daniel Heavron and Ciaran McFaul among those seeking slots, Bradley has a fight on his hands to make the starting XV.

But while relieved to have rather more resources at his disposal, McIver nonetheless views Down as posing a huge challenge.

"If you were to underestimate the strength of the opposition in the Ulster Championship, then you would be on your way out of it," stated McIver.

Bradley's return could be complemented by the availability of midfield strongman Fergal Doherty, who was forced to leave the field in the early stages of last year's Ulster Championship defeat to Donegal.

"Obviously we have been monitoring Fergal's fitness but I would like to think that he will be involved one way or the other against Down," explained McIver.

"That would be a big plus for us. Even the couple of games that we have had Fergal available to us made us look a different side. You need that bit of craft and experience when you are going into the Ulster Championship."

With Dermot McBride and Chrissy McKaigue also available to further prop up his defence, McIver has cause for satisfaction as he prepares to unveil his line-up.

Victory on Sunday would not only serve to dilute the sense of disappointment felt in the aftermath of relegation but would trigger hopes that Derry might just be capable of reaching the Ulster final.

Ulster SFC QF: Derry v Down, Celtic Park, Sunday, 2.00pm.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph