The former Oak Leaf All Star admits his preparations for the meeting with the Saffrons have been hit by injury and unavailability with a number of key players such as Lachlan Murray and Matthew and Enda Downey training and playing with Rory Gallagher’s senior panel.
Add in injuries to keeper Jack Scullion, Ronan McFaul and Odhran McLarnon and Bradley has been working with one arm tied behind his back over recent months but the Glenullin legend remains convinced his team will be ready for the challenge.
“Quite the opposite,” admitted Bradley when asked if he would have a full deck to select from, “Enda Downey, Matthew Downey, Callum Downey, Eoin McEvoy, Jack Scullion, Ronan McFaul, Odhran McLarnon probably will be available to take part in the match day squad but he hasn’t played any football since January so we’re well down.
“To be honest preparations have been very, very disjointed. There has been a number of players up with the senior panel and whilst I would have liked to have had them with me, I haven’t had them. The likes of Lachlan (Murray) trained with us for the first time last night (Wednesday). He is obviously a talented player and is going to be vital to our chances of success so it’s good to have him back but you’d like to see more back because we are also carrying long term injuries.
“Most of the boys I’ve named there have been involved with the senior panel and I’ve never had them but the one thing I will say is that while we’ve been low on numbers in terms of the panel we have had over the last few weeks, the team that is going out on Friday night will be a team that is familiar with each other because they have been playing with each other as we’ve known for a few weeks now that we would be without a number players.”
Since suffering a heavy Leo Murphy Cup defeat against eventual winners, Donegal, Bradley’s squad has been making steady progress in games against a fancied Mayo side and away to Roscommon and will go into the game against Antrim as favourites to make the last four. The squad is backboned by the 2020 All Ireland winning minor panel with the likes of Steelstown duo Donnacha Gilmore and Oran McMenamin expected to feature.
“The two sets of players will know each other from playing universities and schools football,” explained Bradley, “We have watched a few DVDs of them but sometimes that can give a false impression watching DVDS from games where teams are maybe trying different players.
“If you were to watch any Derry games that we played at the start of the Leo Murphy Cup against Donegal or Mayo I would tell you we are a different team to what we were two months ago and I’d say Antrim are the same.
“I do know some of the names and like all Antrim teams they will have some very, very talented players but we have to worry about ourselves first and foremost so I have been concentrating more on our preparation.
“Momentum is a big thing in football and while we haven’t had the sort of preparation I would have liked in terms of getting everyone on the field that we would have liked, I do think the team that is going out will be hard to beat. They do say in championship football, getting over that first game is the hardest part but that’s the challenge for us on Friday night.”