DERRY’s 2007 All Star forward Paddy Bradley will take his place in the press-box at Celtic Park in his role as BBC pundit for today’s Championships clash with Down but the Glenullin man feels he could do a much better job on the pitch.
Despite a three year absence from inter-county duty, Bradley feels he’s still got plenty to offer Brian McIver’s side who he believes lack depth in the forward line.
Derry certainly struggled to rack up big scores in the National Football League campaign and Bradley envisages a low scoring encounter today between two ‘defensive minded’ teams.
The straight-talking 34 year-old is currently the top scorer in the county club scene with an impressive tally of 4-37 from the opening eight games - 12 points better off than his nearest rival, Cailean O’Boyle who starts in the full forward line this afternoon.
He reckons he’s playing well enough to be included and while he claims he doesn’t follow the fortunes of the Oak Leafers as closely as he used to, he admits he misses being involved when the Championship comes around.
Indeed, Bradley is ‘disappointed’ not to be lining out at Celtic Park today but he insists it’s a decision which is solely down to Derry boss, McIver. And he claims he had hoped for a change of managers during the past couple of years having obviously not featured in McIver’s plans.
I’ve always hoped in the last year or two there might have been a change in managers and things might have been different but it hasn’t been that way and it’s not something I’m going to dwell on.Paddy Bradley
“Of course I miss it and I’d be telling you a lie if I said I wasn’t disappointed,” admitted Bradley. “I do feel I have plenty to offer and I believe I’m still good enough to be playing out there on Sunday.
“But that decision was taken out of my hands. If it was a different manager I probably would be playing on Sunday so it is disappointing and that’s probably why I haven’t been following things as much.
“I think I can still do it at county level but obviously the manager doesn’t think so and there’s nothing I can do about that. It’s been three years I’ve been away and I’m happy enough playing club football.
“I’ve always hoped in the last year or two there might have been a change in managers and things might have been different but it hasn’t been that way and it’s not something I’m going to dwell on.
“I’m enjoying playing with the club and I’m playing well, I’m enjoying being fit and that’s all I can do really. - let my performances for my club do the talking.”
Bradley has been dogged by two cruciate injuries and hamstring trouble in recent years and while he’ll be happy working as a pundit for BBC Sport today, there’s no doubt he’d rather be involved in the action.
“To be honest, while I’ve been following Derry in terms of watching the matches I haven’t really been taking as keen an interest as I was when I was playing.
“At the end of the day I still have a lot of friends playing in that team. I’m still a Derry man and I played for Derry for 15 years so I still want them to do well and I’ll still be one of Derry’s biggest supporters come Sunday.”
Given the way Derry finished their league campaign and modern football’s defensive systems, Bradley predicts a low scoring encounter at Celtic Park today but he reckons Derry can edge victory if his brother Eoin and Mark Lynch are on song with a 13 point target sufficient to progress.
“I would expect it to be a very defensive game,” he predicted. “The way the game has gone I think you have to have some defensive plan. Derry aren’t blessed with a host of free-scoring forwards so they have to have a defensive plan.
“But Eoin has been back training after being away from the circuit for a few months and Cailean O’Boyle’s back in the squad so they have more options in attack.
“So while I expect them to be defensive they have some good ball carriers like Ciarán McFaul, Enda Lynn and the likes of Kevin Johnston - they are all boys who are comfortable carrying the ball.
“I expect Derry to sit in and be very compact at the back, soak up the pressure and then try and get the ball to those boys to supply Eoin and Mark Lynch further up the field.
“No doubt Fergal Doherty is an asset to any midfield, he’s a leader but it all depends how fit he is. Derry will hope they can get 50 or 60 minutes out of him.
“I don’t see Fergal pushing up the field he’ll leave that to the boys around him and he’ll sit and hold shop.
“It’s interesting they have Niall Holly in midfield. To have him in midfield tells me that Fergal’s going to sit and conserve his energy and block and harass and Niall Holly will do the pushing forward.
“I think it will be a defensive type game and free taking is going to be crucial. Brian (McIver) will be hoping it’s a low scoring game and will hope Mark Lynch contributes a couple of points from play and Eoin gets a few points from play. Hopefully their radars are and they can get two or three frees apiece.
“Unless there’s an early goal in the game I expect it to be low scoring with 13 or 14 points winning the game and Derry should be able to reach that target,” he concluded.