Bradley hails a squad impact

By Michael McMullan

EMMETT Bradley was Derry’s not so secret weapon from the bench in their magical 2022 Ulster winning campaign and he backs the importance of having a competitive squad.

Bradley scored a point when he came on in all three games in Ulster as Derry ended a 24-year championship famine but stepped away from the county squad last season.

After All-Ireland glory with Glen, he made a return to county colours and his goal broke Westmeath’s resolve last weekend, his last action before being replaced by debutant Ruairi Forbes.

“That’s county football though,” Bradley said with a smile, seated in the dressing rooms at Glen’s Watty Graham Park at the launch of the All-Ireland Championship.

“I’m a huge believer, if you’re not using your 20 men, your full complement…you need to be doing that to be competing at a really high level.

“With the energy expenditure that’s required, you need to be at a really high level of fitness and then  boys coming off the bench need to be impacting.

“We see all the top teams that are competing, you’re in and you’re out, and that’s something that we need to be doing as well.”

Bradley’s return was a bonus this year with Benny Heron having called time on his career. Cormac Murphy, Diarmuid Baker and Eunan Mulholland had also added to the panel before Derry’s injury crisis.

It has left the panel thin in terms of experience. Only Shea Downey started a championship game, with his five starts coming in the 2022 season.

Between the suspended Gareth McKinless, Niall Loughlin, Conor Doherty, Paudi McGrogan and Niall Toner, the five players unavailable last weekend, have a combined 102 championship appearances.

Bradley said their absence has been “massive” in terms of experience and how it impacts championship preparation.

“They are players that really make things happen as well, and the impact that can have on a team can be significant,” he said.

“They are players that bring high energy to the game. That obviously can manifest and feed out into the rest of the group as well.

“So certainly it’s been a factor, but hopefully we’re able to get a number of those options back so hopefully they can help us or contribute this weekend.”

Bradley also poured water on any chatter about unrest in the camp or rumours of a revolt towards manager Mickey Harte.

The win over Westmeath did get Derry back on track but Bradley admits the defeat against Armagh cut deep, especially after losing their Ulster title to Donegal in a similar manner.

“To be fair to the group, there’s a lot of experience there, there’s a lot of us who have been through the rough times with Derry as well,” Bradley said of the squad’s character to dig out a win after three championship defeats.

“They know that you have to appreciate these things as well and you don’t get to compete at the top level without performing at the top level.

“It’s important for us to try and really work to get back to that level, that’s the challenge that we face.”

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