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Eoin Bradley praises Derry's drive to fight for victory

By Declan Bogue

It was a game billed as the return of one of the most exciting forwards in the sport, but that only told half the story.

Eoin Bradley is a prized commodity in the modern game, which he once again demonstrated in Derry's late win over Down.

'Skinner' actually played in five of the Oak Leafs' seven National League matches this season, but made only one start on a treacherous night in Omagh against Tyrone.

A plasterer by trade, he has enormous upper-body strength, showcased by how he was able to hold off marker Darren O'Hagan, along with whoever the rotated sweeper was, while in possession.

That kind of power, along with exceptional control and ball skills, terrorised the Down defence, most notably in the 41st minute, when he rode three challenges to grab a point all of his making.

Little wonder that while he only started playing soccer as a bit of fun a couple of years ago, he is one of the most feared strikers in the Irish League with Glenavon.

Still, he admits that he felt shattered at different stages of a tense Ulster Championship match, not least when Down equalised with three minutes remaining.

"It was tough, and the heat didn't help me!" laughed the 31-year-old Glenullin man.

"We started off in the first 20 minutes pretty well, but then we were out of it a bit.

"There were a lot of men back, that's the way football is played now and it's hard, you have to bide your time and keep on moving.

"I moved out into the field in the second half to try and get on a bit more ball.

"But it was a good first-half team performance. In the second half we were poor but we won by a point. That's the main thing."

Hailing the mentality of Brian McIver's men and avoiding the temptation to go into their shells, he continued: "It would have been very easy for us to do when Down scored two or three on the bounce in the second half. We had to show a bit of character to come back. It was a good team performance."

As for the nerves in a tight finish, he added: "Maybe that will stand us in good stead coming into the next game. Every game Down played in the league, they finished strongly.

"We knew that for the last 10 minutes (that would be the case). But we have got over the line with something to work on."

It was noticeable how many times he linked up with defender Kevin Johnston. At one stage in the second half, Johnston almost put Bradley through on goal only for a vital slip to snatch away the chance.

The Dungiven man also had to look after Down's Kevin McKernan for the afternoon, not a simple task.

"He's not easily marked, he covers some ground," said Johnston.

"In the first half he got two scores. You think you have him covered and then he's away.

"I'm disappointed with that side of things, to give away two points, but we got the win and I suppose that's all that really matters."

This win represents the first time Derry have won a Championship game under Brian McIver, with Johnston adding: "Hopefully now we can get the supporters behind us and push on."

Belfast Telegraph


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