By Michael McMullan
GLEN selector Johnny Bradley insists his side must brace themselves for a “serious battle” when they lock horns with Magherafelt in Sunday’s final (Celtic Park, 3.30pm).
The Ulster champions are one game away from a third successive title, something Bradley didn’t entertain as being anywhere in the Glen psyche.
Sunday is a repeat of the 2019 final when Magherafelt held on in the face of a late Glen comeback.
Glen were close to landing the All-Ireland back in January. When the dust settled on the Kilmacud Crokes’ extra man saga, the Watties used the league campaign to good effect.
Players were on county duty. Others were rested and it allowed fringe players – in more favourable weather conditions – to get a crack in a starting jersey.
From that, highly rated youngster Danny McDermott made their starting line-up for their pressure cooker win over Sleacht Néill in the semi-final.
“We found with the u-19s, it gave those boys an opportunity to play for the reserves as well,” Bradley said.
“Danny has played in different positions so he gives you that versatility to move things around. He is a fantastic footballer with an unbelievable engine.
“That’s what you need in club football, you need that aerobic capacity to play at this level and he has it.”
In what was an war of attrition against their rivals, Glen broke loose in the third quarter and a fortuitous goal was the difference between the teams.
“We would be disappointed in that in how we performed after the goal,” added Bradley.
“There is room for improvement and that wouldn’t be good enough in a county final, especially against a team like Magherafelt who have the scoring quality.”
While he admits Glen’s experience banked over the last three seasons is a benefit, he also points to Magherafelt taking learning from their final appearances.
Twelve months after winning the title, they took Sleacht Néill to the pin of the collar in the final.
“Come Sunday, at half three, you have to deliver,” Bradley bluntly states. “Magherafelt have a history of getting to a final and performing, that’s the big thing.”
The chance of winning a third successive title is “not mentioned” in the Glen camp. Not within the group.
From week to week, it’s about the six inches in front of your face. After the groups came a “really difficult” tie with Kilrea and the “massive” semi-final with the Emmet’s.
“It is the same now,” Bradley sums up. “You are looking at Magherafelt and you are realising they came through the toughest side of the group stages.
“They went into a quarter-final against Ballinascreen, who were very defensive, and they dug it out.
“They got the semi-final and showed their true colours. They have some unbelievably good players,” said Bradley, listing almost half their team and their experience in crunch games at county and MacRory Cup level.
“They have a lot of quality and we know we have a serious battle on our hands. Magherafelt have shown a lot of form over the last number of weeks and we know what is in front of us. We have a lot of battles we need to win and it is going to be a tough match.”