By Michael McMullan
IF ever there was a definition of redemption, the 49th minute of Sunday’s Ulster Club final ticks that box.
Aaron Branagan had cut Glen’s lead to a single point and Kilcoo’s never say die attitude was in full flow when Ryan Johnston’s inch-perfect dinked pass found Ceilum Doherty in space behind Ethan Doherty.
When the Kilcoo man got turned inside, his shot was blocked by Connlan Bradley. Jerome Johnston hovered up the rebound, but was smothered by green and gold jersies before Tiarnán Flanagan came out with the leather in hand.
The irony. It was Bradley’s shanked kick-out that led to Jerome Johnston’s winning goal and, this year, the save was one of game changers in a pulsating afternoon.
“Ones say I am not there to make a save, but I have put a lot of work into it,” Connlan said, pointing to the fact that he was converted into a goalkeeper for his kick-outs.
“I had a lot of work up with the Derry team with (Thomas – Derry goalkeeper coach) Postie Mallon. He has brought me on leaps and bounds.”
Minutes after Connor Carville raised the Seamus McFerran Cup, Bradley is still stopping for photos with Glen fans.
“It is very, very hard to describe,” he said of becoming an Ulster champion. “The feeling, compared to last year, was completely different. I was completely lost last year after I messed up that short kick-out, I feel like I was to blame, but everybody reassured me that it wasn’t my fault.
“All the wee mistakes, you can get away with them outfield. I have come to notice that, in nets, if you make these mistakes, then these things can happen. We got over the line and it’s the best feeling ever.”
It could’ve all panned out all so differently had Kilcoo nailed their penalty in first-half stoppage time.
With the allotted five minutes already played, referee Joe McQuillan allowed Bradley’s kick-out to sail into the vicinity of Conor Glass. It was a re-run of the ‘flick over the top’ move that launched Glen attacks in the Derry championship when they mixed up their kick-outs.
Glass didn’t take possession and seconds later Shealan Johnston set up Jerome Johnston for a goal chance before he was impeded by Ryan Dougan and referee McQuillan, after consulting with his umpire, deemed the foul was inside the penalty area.
“I had no need to rush it, but I did. When you are doing nets, the wee things can count for you – good or bad,” said Bradley, who felt he had Devlin’s kick covered.
“I had been monitoring their penalty takers. The post saved me at the time but it didn’t go in,” he revealed the moment he dived the right way before Devlin’s shot hit the butt of the upright.
It was the closest Glen came to falling behind, but with the sun shining into the eyes of the Bradley and his defence, it was a tricky half hour that saw the Glen ‘keeper play as sweeper for much of the second half.
“They pushed up man for man and they did leave me, so that’s why I got on so much ball in the second half,” he pointed out. I gave away one at the very start and the boys reassured me to keep calm, when to go or when not to and just hold it.”
“I felt we controlled it fairly well. Kilcoo put massive pressure on you, but I think we did come on top in most of the things we did and the pressure we put on them.”