Ger Houlahan: Bradley gives Derry fans plenty to cheer, if only they’d show up
When all the eyes were on the young Armagh prodigy, Jamie Clarke, along came the wily and crafty Eoghan Bradley who produced a sublime performance of full forward craft with his deadly finishing and ‘hold up play’.
He single handily taught Armagh a lesson, leaving his three markers unable to contain him.
He was a constant threat with his movement and his unbelievable strength holding his immediate opponent off while trying to work an opening. He was supported by the rejuvenated Conleth Gilligan, scorer of a brilliant third goal and the playmaker–chief Mark Lynch who started the rot.
But Armagh surely got it totally wrong with their tactics allowing Vinny Martin to man-mark lynch in place of the indefatigable Paul Duffy.
From the earliest of stages, it was obvious that it wasn’t working and that changes were necessary. However, it took the goal and five points in arrears for corrective action to be made.
Derry’s real success was in midfield were they totally outplayed Armagh with Joe Diver, Michael Friel and Enda Muldoon mopping up everything and denying Armagh any kind of foothold in the game. They crowded midfield and, with close interplay, created space that was quickly distributed, via Lynch, and co. to Bradley.
John Brennan, it seems, learned more from Armagh’s last game, making changes in all sections of the park to nullify Armagh’s influential players and allowing Bradley to foil a lone furrow in full forward.
Derry man–marked Stephen McDonnell and Clarke and even sorted out Aaron Kernan with a man-marker, Michael Bateson.
Armagh were obviously carried away with the manner of the victory against an overrated Down side.
Their old failings from the league i.e. the midfield and half forward line, came back to haunt them, however to be fair, even the highly-vaunted defence were poor in every position.
They will be encouraged by the fact that only for a great save by Danny Devlin from McDonnell in the Derry goals the match was in the balance with 10 to play.
Derry will now look forward to a local derby in the final and although they are likely and happy to be underdogs again, they will be a match for anyone.
They appear, finally, to be committed to winning an Ulster Championship and they seem, at least, to have thrown their weight behind the management and his ideas.
They have created a ‘club’ atmosphere within the camp and it all looks good at present.
That is, barring an accident to Bradley, who is thriving without the presence of big brother and from the quality service he is currently receiving.
Everyone would be delighted to see Derry as a major force again but I just wish that their own county would take some pride in their team and maybe come out and support them once in a while!