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Bradley aiming to underline his value to Tyrone

By John Campbell

In bidding to become a regular in the Tyrone senior football team at centrethreequarters, it is safe to say that Mark Bradley has had to shake off the challenge of some talented competitors.

In the recent past, players such as Mattie Donnelly, Ronan O'Neill and Mark Donnelly have worn the No 11 shirt with distinction but since first coming to prominence with the county's Under-21 string earlier this year, Bradley has matured to such an extent that he is now the acknowledged playmaker in Mickey Harte's line-up.

He gets another chance today in the All-Ireland Round 4B qualifier against Sligo at Croke Park to underline his immense value to the team when he will again be charged with orchestrating the Red Hands' attacking blueprint.

And with Rory Brennan and Conor Meyler from the All-Ireland-winning U21 side also in the starting line-up, youth is set to have its fling at Headquarters as Harte's side bid to book their place in the last four.

For Bradley, today's outing is the latest in a series of challenges for both himself and Tyrone.

"I'm just trying to become a regular in the side and that's not easy because of the level of competition for places," he pointed out.

"As for the team itself, we are now within striking distance of a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals and if we manage to get there that will show how far we have moved on since we were beaten by Donegal in the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship."

Bradley's intuitive use of space, his pinpoint distribution and willingness to track back and support his defence make him the kind of workaholic that is admired by his manager.

He will be flanked by Tiarnan McCann and Meyler in the half-forward line while ahead of them, Darren McCurry, Sean Cavanagh and Connor McAliskey form a full-forward line that could prosper assuming Mattie Donnelly and Colm Cavanagh can chisel out a decent ration of possession in midfield.

Sligo go into the game still bearing the considerable psychological scars from that embarrassing 6-25 to 2-11 mauling by Mayo in the Connacht final - a terrible let-down for the Yeats County following their unexpected semi-final victory over fancied Roscommon.

Yet Harte refuses to believe that Sligo's morale could prove fragile today.

"They will have been hurt by what happened against Mayo but Niall Carew is a good manager and I have no doubt that he will have lifted his players," stated Harte.

"Sligo did not become a bad side overnight. You get days on which things do not go right for you and the Connacht final was one of those days for Sligo. They have what I feel is a very dangerous full-forward line in particular in David Kelly, Pat Hughes and Adrian Marren and they will pose a threat to us."

His own defence, though, looks solid with Brennan getting the vote at left-full-back in preference to Cathal McCarron while Joe McMahon is again at centre-half-back as his brother Justin is still not fully recovered from injury.

Peter Harte and Ronan McNabb will have key roles for the Red Hands who, buoyed by those qualifier wins against Limerick, Meath and Tipperary, are now in pole position to take their place in the All-Ireland semi-finals - unless Sligo's prayers for a minor miracle are answered, that is.

Belfast Telegraph


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