Bradley fit for crucial Casement Park clash

DERRY manager John Brennan says he expects Paddy Bradley to play a full role in Sunday’s Allianz Football League Division Two showdown with Antrim at Casement Park, despite reports suggesting the Glenullin star was likely to miss the clash.

MICHAEL WILSON reports

Brennan, who welcomes back Eoin Bradley and Brian McCallion from suspension and injury respectively, said there was never any danger the full-forward would not play in a game which has vital permutations at both ends of the table.

“Paddy has had a long-standing complaint, but it’s nothing serious and he will be in the squad,” revealed the Derry manager.

“I don’t understand where these reports come from. This wasn’t something that happened recently. He did attend hospital during the week but only to try and organise a date, close season, to get it sorted. It is nothing.”

In what is a complicated scenario, Derry currently lie fourth on the same points as both Tyrone and Laois who are immediately above them. Donegal lead the way on 10, two points ahead of the chasing pack but Jim McGuinness’ men must defeat Laois to rubber stamp their own promotion, a result which would open the door for Derry should they defeat the Saffrons.

The promotion places will be decided on scoring difference (if more than two teams are involved) or the head-to-head meeting (if only two teams are vying for one spot). With Derry having defeated Tyrone but lost to both Donegal and Laois, the Oak leafers require a Tir Chonaill victory (or draw) to enable them to leapfrog Laois and finish above Tyrone courtesy of their Celtic Park victory earlier in the year.

Complicated? Not if you ask the Lavey man.

“It is not complicated at all, we have to win or there is nothing else to think about,” explained Brennan.

“There is no point getting caught up in what is happening in other games if we can’t look after ourselves and we have a tough game to prepare for.

“Obviously the Donegal v. Laois game is vital to the whole scenario but it’s only of concern if we win. If we don’t it doesn’t matter how that goes. Yes, promotion is in the hands of other teams but our game is not and that’s what we have to concentrate on.”

The Derry manager said he was expecting a tight, tense encounter against Liam Bradley’s team who must win to have any hope of avoiding the drop into Division Three.

“Antrim will be fighting for their lives and we know we will get nothing easy. It is crucial for both teams to win but we have to go into the game with confidence.

“I have spoken before about the difficulties we have had in getting out a settled team and it has made hard to get any level of consistency but the players have performed very well.

“Against a very big Meath team, we turned it round second half and when you think we have played 11 games this season, won nine and already have a trophy won, it is not a bad start.”

While Joe Diver, Aidan Lynn, Michael Drumm and Enda Muldoon all remain on the long-term injury list for Derry, second from bottom Antrim have been boosted by the news both Paddy Cunningham and Kevin O’Boyle could be fit for Sunday’s clash.

The Saffrons go into the game knowing even victory may not be enough to avoid the drop as they would still need the two teams above them, Meath and Sligo, to lose.

Forward Cunningham, who will carry the bulk of the scoring threat, and skipper O’Boyle missed last weekend’s match against Donegal, Antrim’s fifth defeat in a disappointing League campaign.

Their return would be some solace for manager Liam Bradley who expects to be without several other players for Sunday’s match at Casement Park. Andy McClean, Kevin Niblock, Justin Crozier, Kevin McGourty and Michael McCann are all receiving treatment and considered doubtful starters.