DERRY’S HOPES of claiming their first Ulster Senior Football Championship title since 1998 were dealt a major blow on Sunday when the ‘Oak Leafers’ prolific marksman, Eoin Bradley was ruled out of Sunday’s decider against Donegal through injury.
The in-form Glenullin forward sustained suspected cruciate ligament damage in an in-house training match in Ballinascreen when his legs tangled with an opponent and he was anxiously awaiting the results of his scan late last night.
Medical staff initially feared the worst and it’s expected that Bradley will be out of action for the next six weeks at least, meaning the earliest he could hope for a return to action for the County panel would be if John Brennan’s men reach the semi-final of the All-Ireland Championship on August 28th next.
Indeed, the 27 year-old’s season now hangs in the balance and his absence will be greatly felt given his heroics against Armagh in last month’s semi-final.
Bradley was in sensational form in the 3-14 to 1-11 Ulster semi-final win, registering a personal tally of 1-5 and the loss of one of the county’s marquee forwards, is a significant one which may help turn the tide in favour of Jim McGuinness’ side at Clones this weekend.
Eoin’s older brother, Paddy had himself suffered a cruciate injury after tearing his ligament in a club game back in April and he admitted his younger sibling fears he has done the same damage to his knee.
“He still has to go for a scan but there’s something seriously wrong with it and he’s 90 per cent certain it’s gone,” said Bradley.
“It was the usual thing. He was going for a ball in the training game and was turning when the defender came in and made some contact. It’s a tough thing. I did my right one earlier in the year and it’s now looking like he’s done his left.”
With the likes of Mark Lynch and Conleth Gilligan delivering notable performances against Armagh, Brennan still has plenty of quality in the forward line for the clash with Donegal on Sunday and he has other notable options.
Caolan O’Boyle could come into the Derry side in a straight swap with Bradley or Lynch could go inside with Emmett McGuckin or Ciaran McGoldrick coming into the team, however without Bradley there’s no doubting that Derry’s firepower has been badly blunted ahead of Sunday’s provincial decider.
On a more positive note, Derry could be boasted by the return of Gerard O’Kane to the starting panel after missing the semi-final win because of a thigh injury.
“Gerard is back training,” revealed Brennan. “At the moment, he would be 60/40 (to be available). Whether he makes the team or not is another question. I’m not going to disclose who I have in or out.”
“There’s a possibility of him (O’Kane) being in the 26,” added the Derry boss.