PADDY Bradley admits he is anxious to make up for lost time ahead of what should be his 50th Championship appearance for Derry next Saturday evening when the Oak Leafers travel to Ballybofey to take on reigning Ulster champions, Donegal.
Michael Wilson reports
The Derry captain was a frustrated figure on the sidelines in Clones last season - alongside brother Eoin - when Jim McGuinness’ men took advantage of a controversial second half penalty to deny Derry a first Ulster title since 1998 while a much publicised fall-out with then manager Damian Cassidy the season before means it is essentially two years since the Glenullin man kicked a Championship ball in anger. It is a statistic Bradley is eager to rectify.
“It is not even about Donegal as much, I am just itching to get a Championship match,” explained Bradley.
“Two years ago I left under a cloud of controversy with Damien Cassidy and it was very hard to walk away. I missed two or three Championship games then. Last year I had the cruciate injury so it has been more than two years since I played for Derry in the The Championship and it’s something I am really looking forward to, being back out playing Championship football. You can play all the league games you want but at the end of the day it is all about Championship.”
Bradley refutes any notion next Saturday will be a revenge mission for John Brennan’s team after the controversy of Michael Murphy’s second half penalty in last year’s decider when the teams were level at 0-5 each.
“I think this is simply about Derry getting a Championship win. I don’t buy into this revenge idea. I mean, how many times have we met Donegal in recent years? Any game in Ulster is going to be a derby match to one degree or another. For us, this is about winning a Championship game. It is only the first round but we have set our sights - without looking too far ahead because you cannot afford to do that at this level - on bigger things this year.
“We feel we have a big enough panel, We feel things are coming right in terms of injuries and in terms of how we are training. The Donegal game is simply one bridge to cross and hopefully we can manage to get over it in Ballybofey. We don’t want to be going through the back door as such. We want to be going to an Ulster final again this year and see if we can go one better than last season.”
Much has already been made of the standard of football in the opening Ulster games this season while Donegal have become renowned for their rigid defensive system under McGuinness and Bradley is expecting little to change when the sides meet in MacCumhaill Park.
“I suppose if people are looking to complain about blanket defences, they are going to get plenty of chances to complain over the next two weeks because I would think Tyrone, Armagh and then Donegal are going to put plenty of men behind the ball. From a personal point of view, it would be great if forwards went out and got a lot of room to showcase their skills. It would be great for fans if all games were high scoring and had plenty of drama but that’s not the way modern football seems to be going.
“I have said in the past, maybe the GAA could do something to counteract the defensive play, like maybe looking at 13-a-side, but the rules are the rules for this year’s Championship. There is nothing we can do about it now. We are just going to have to go out and counteract what Donegal do against us,” he added.