Derry U20 manager Paddy Bradley confident of quality ahead of Monaghan Championship opener

Derry's Conleth McGuckian will play a key role for the Oak Leafers  on Friday night.
(Photo: George Sweeney)Derry's Conleth McGuckian will play a key role for the Oak Leafers  on Friday night.
(Photo: George Sweeney)
Derry's Conleth McGuckian will play a key role for the Oak Leafers on Friday night. (Photo: George Sweeney)
Ulster Under 20 Championship: Derry v Monaghan (Friday, Celtic park, 7.30pm)

Derry Under 20 manager Paddy Bradley could be forgiven for thinking circumstance is conspiring against him as he leads his side out for their opening Ulster Championship match against Monaghan in Celtic Park on Friday (7.30pm).

The condensed GAA calendar means the former Oak Leaf All Star goes into his inaugural match as U20 manager without the services of senior star, Ethan Doherty, as well as a host of Martin Boyle’s Ulster winning 2020 minor side who are in action against Meath in the delayed 2020 All Ireland semi-final. Couple that with ongoing club fixtures and Bradley has had his work cut out to prepare the team as he would like to face a side seen by many as favourites to lift the title. Despite the difficulties, the Glenullin man has no doubt over the quality within his squad.

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“There is quality there and it just shows where Derry is at when we have such a good quality Under 20 team going out on Friday even taking into account that there are one or two missing with the minors and then Ethan with the senior squad,” explained Bradley, “We still feel we are going to be really competitive and if we perform the way we are capable of performing then there is no reason we cannot get a result.”

Derry have injury doubts over Niall Doyle, Cahir Higgins and Ryan Lennox but Bradley says he was fully aware of potential clashes this season when he accepted the offer to take on the Under 20 role

“Obviously the minors doing well was always going to impact our chances but at the end of the day fair dues to the minors,” he added, “They have to go and concentrate on that competition. They have won Ulster and are in with a great chance of winning an All Ireland so good luck to them.

“We would have had quite a few of those players and some starting but it is what it is. We knew the calendar before we took up the challenge of taking this team and then you have Ethan with the seniors. We’ve known for a while that the likelihood is we are going to be missing players but we won’t be using that as an excuse.”

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A Derry team including the likes of Steelstown duo Cahir McMonagle and Oran McMenamin, Glen’s Conleth McGuckian and Lissan exciting young midfielder Iarlaith Donaghy will be familiar to a Farney side with a couple of Ulster Minor title under their belts from recent seasons but Bradley isn’t reading too much into past success.

“Monaghan have won a couple of minor championships over the past number of years so, yes, they are probably favourites for Ulster based on that but from 17/18 through to 20/21, you never know how young lads are going to develop. I’m not reading too much into the fact that they have had a bit of minor success because everybody develops at different rates, in different stages.

“The players we have on our team were competitive the whole way through their underage teams and they have matured very, very well so we are happy with the work we have done with them, however limited, we are still happy with what we’ve done.

“We haven’t had a long preparation time. Obviously there has been club football which has impacted on it too but neither Monaghan nor any county is getting the work done they would wish on a normal year. We are not going to make too many complaints about it. We have a strong team, one or two injury worries and we are hoping with the small panel we have, that everyone is going to be fit and ready for Friday evening.”

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The Derry manager, who is also in charge of the Loup senior side, admitted it has been a challenge juggling both roles but said it is one he is relishing.

“Initially when I agreed to take on the Under 20 role there wasn’t meant to be much of a cross over because the 20s competition was meant to be earlier in the year, around March/April time, before club football really kicked off,” he explained.

“The way it is at the minute you are trying to juggle the two and it can be difficult but what more do you want? I’m working with a good senior side in Loup and working with the county Under 20 side. I’m lucky to be able to work with two such good groups of players.”