Emmett Bradley believes a reduced workload has helped him begin to deliver in the Derry senior shirt.
The Glen player has been on the fringes of the Oak Leaf senior panel for a couple of seasons with injury, as well as club and university commitments, curtailing his opportunities.
He has long been tipped as a potential senior star and last season’s retirement of Fergal Doherty has opened up a space in the Derry midfield, a space which Bradley looks determined to secure after a string of impressive performances in the McKenna Cup and Sunday’s ‘Man of the Match’ display against Fermanagh.
Bradley, though, is taking nothing for granted.
“This is the first real year that I’ve got a couple of games under my belt at the start of the year and got game time,” said the midfielder. “I’m doing my best and keeping myself ticking over and just trying to stick to what we’ve been asked to do.
“It’s been sort of ‘stop-start, stop-start’. The club under 21s and minors have been doing well this last couple of years and I was involved with them and involved with St Mary’s in the Sigerson and then injuries got the better of me. This year, I’ve focussed solely on Derry and that has allowed me to stay on top of injuries and stuff.”
“The fact that I’ve got an opportunity and got some games has helped a lot. It’s all about playing football. You’re not going to improve sitting on the bench so the aim is just to continue playing football and do the best I can.
“Nobody’s position is safe. Boys are talking about us missing a few players but the boys on the pitch want to keep their jerseys. They don’t want to give their position back easy.”
The 23-year old admitted the players had come in for a few harsh words from manager Damian Barton after an indifferent first half against Fermanagh.
“We did but we deserved it. In the first half we never really got going at all. There was no desire. There was no ambition to get forward. We were playing within ourselves. Fermanagh are a good side and they are going to bring a lot of hard work to the table.
“We started to get into the swing of things in the second half. We just did what we’re good at and stuck to what we’re good at and, thankfully, we got there in the end.”
Cavan provide Derry’s second Division Two Ulster test in succession and Bradley is braced for another tough encounter in Breffni Park.
“We faced Cavan in the McKenna Cup and they provided a good challenge to us We want to keep doing what we’re good at and building until the end of the year. We’re not the finished product yet.”