The big Glen midfielder was a scoring substitute in Sunday’s dramatic Ulster final victory over Donegal and has seen both sides of the Derry coin over his years with the senior county team. Not even the lows of relegation to Division Four in 2018 could tempt Bradley to walk away with the appointment of Rory Gallagher, the spark that re-ignited the Oak Leaf flame. For Bradley, the difference can be summed up in two words: ‘buy in’.
“As a Gaelic footballer you want to play at the top level,” he explained, “That’s a fact and when you can, while your body is able and your mind is able, you want to play at the top level and for days like that, it’s definitely worth it.
“The best way I can sum up the difference is, ‘buy in’. We got rid of excuses. There have been a lot of tough days on the training field since but the best way to sum up the change is ‘buy in’. The players have committed to each other and we are starting to get the rewards for that.
“I grew up watching boys like Enda Gormley, Damien McCusker and boys like that, the Glen men who played for Derry in that era. You were jealous and would have loved to be in that position and now we have a wee taste of it today. Hopefully it can continue.”
Bradley said the resilience within Gallagher’s revamped Derry squad has proved critical, bouncing back from the disappointment of missing out on promotion to seal a first Ulster title since 1998.
“It’s surreal. We have had to endure some really tough days but we have put a real focus over the last two or three years to get back to a level where we were competing,” he explained, “Look, this year, things just fell into place, the work came to fruition.
“We knew the type of team we were building, the type of lads we were bringing together and this group is so together, They are seriously resilient. They came back through the leagues and we just missed out on promotion this year which was really disappointing, but we put all our focus on the Ulster Championship, all our focus on Tyrone and just took it one game at a time.
“I know that is a cliché but it’s so true. We brought in a wee bit of form to the final but we knew Donegal were going to be a massive test. As Chrissy (McKaigue) said in his speech, they have been the benchmark in Ulster over this last decade but we knew we had a serious chance to win the game. We had serious belief. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy and that was how it materialised out there. They pushed us right to the pin of our collar but we are delighted to get over the line.”
Derry now go into the All Ireland Series as Ulster champions with Bradley promising they will be fully focused.
“All we wanted to do was fulfil our potential and that’s something we can be content with following those three games. We know we still have room for improvement and whoever we come up against next there will be no easy games.”