By Michael McMullan
PAUL Bradley has a full panel to pick from for the first time in his three-year tenure as Sleacht Néill senior football manager.
The Emmet’s take on Lavey in Sunday’s semi-final, a repeat of last year’s clash when extra-time was needed to qualify for the final.
Defenders Karl McKaigue and Paul McNeill were out injured at different times, with Cormac O’Doherty missing last year’s defeat to Glen.
Sunday’s win over Swatragh was a first full game for Padraig Cassidy since last year’s win over Lavey, with Brendan Rogers starting a first championship game since an accidental wrist fracture when the sides met in the league in July, the first time county players were available after Derry’s Ulster winning summer.
“He would’ve done your heart good,” said Bradley of Rogers slotting into the defence. “Another week under his belt will do him the world of good.
Jerome McGuigan is back on the panel this season and hit four points in Sunday’s 0-16 to 0-6 win over Swatragh.
Sean Cassidy and Seán Ó Caiside are back training, with Meehaul McGrath in scoring form in Monday’s reserve win over Magherafelt.
“When we met up the other night I think it’s the first time in three years we had everybody sitting looking at us and (being) available,” Bradley said, referring to their last gathering before taking on Swatragh.
“Long may it continue; it is a healthy position to be in. We haven’t had it from year one, last year or until now.”
Bradley feels clubs only get the benefit of the split season when a free weekend comes around the corner.
With the club’s hurlers not in Ulster action until mid-November, football takes full focus as they aim to get back to another county final.
“It doesn’t do you any good until you get this week out of the way and that’s not looking past anyone,” Bradley said before Sunday’s draw threw up their Lavey rematch.
“It’s still been week on week on and, fingers crossed, if we get through next week, then you get a week off and that’s where you see the real benefit. We are not seeing the benefit of it (a week off) until you are in a final.”