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Prime target: Paul Bradley is keen to restore Slaughtneil’s winning ways

Prime target: Paul Bradley is keen to restore Slaughtneil’s winning ways

�INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Prime target: Paul Bradley is keen to restore Slaughtneil’s winning ways

The slice of irony associated with his new role as Slaughtneil football team manager is not lost on Paul Bradley.

At one of his initial training sessions as 2020 was unfurling, a snow-covered pitch limited the amount of work that he and his backroom team were able to undertake with the players.

Yet while the weather has been exceptionally benign for the greater part of recent weeks, the gates to the Slaughtneil complex have remained firmly padlocked because of the coronavirus.

Bradley, who rendered outstanding service to the club as a senior player of 18 years standing prior to collecting his fifth Derry Senior County Championship medal and third Ulster Club honour in 2017, nonetheless remains calmly philosophical as he contemplates the immediate future.

"Not too many people would have predicted the crisis that we all find ourselves in because of the coronavirus," muses Bradley,

"Obviously I had my ideas on how we might plan and prepare for the new season but you could say that we were overtaken by events.

"Having said that, the massive impact which the pandemic has had in this country has forced us all to reassess our lives and it has also given us a different perspective in relation to what we might prioritise."

Slaughtneil may have dined generously at the top table in Derry and Ulster during what was the twilight of Bradley's playing career from 2014 until 2017, his versatility and boundless energy making him a key cog in then manager Mickey Moran's line-up.

But nothing lasts forever and Bradley has already fixed his sights on what he hopes will prove a revival for this homely club that nestles in the heart of the Sperrins.

The fact that Gavin Devlin, who has been Mickey Harte's right-hand man in the Tyrone camp since 2013, and Slaughtneil club stalwarts Padraig Kelly and Seamus Bradley comprise Bradley's backroom cements the belief that the team is in good hands.

And with a largely unchanged player panel at his disposal, this provides Bradley with a further incentive to rekindle the glory days of the recent past.

"But we will have to be patient for the moment," he cautions.

"While we are all eager to get back to preparing for football and playing games, we have to recognise that the coronavirus has caused a lot of suffering out there.

"I think it is better that we take one step at a time. We will resume training when the medical experts and those in authority feel it is safe for us to do so.

"I take encouragement from the sessions we had before the lockdown came into effect and I noted then the enthusiasm and commitment of the players."

If an All-Ireland title has still to come to this GAA hotbed, then it is safe to assume that the modest and unassuming Bradley will be pulling out the stops to achieve this further along the line.

Slaughtneil continues to prove a conveyor belt of talent for Derry county boss Rory Gallagher but Bradley is hopeful that when club action resumes he may be able to call upon a settled side.

"When we get back to playing, we will have to pick our steps. It is worth pointing out that we have not contested a Derry Senior Championship final for the past two years so we are well aware of the extent of the competition that we will face in our bid to try and get back on the county throne again," insists Bradley.

He can take considerable encouragement from the fact that players such as the McKaigue brothers Chrissy and Karl, Brendan Rogers, Shane McGuigan, Cormac O'Doherty and Christopher Bradley will be very much to the fore again as the club sets its sights on garnering another ration of success.

"There is a great spirit within the club but we recognise that there are many people out there who are confronted by big problems right now. Hopefully the pandemic threat will ease and life will change for the better," adds Bradley.

Belfast Telegraph