Derry win gave Steelstown freedom to conquer Ulster says Brian Ogs' Eoghan Bradley
Eoghan Bradley says winning the Derry championship lifted a weight off Steelstown shoulders and allowed the Brian Ogs the freedom to tackle the Ulster championship with confidence.
The 22 year old former Derry minor formed part of a lethal forward unit that hit 9-39 as the Brian Ogs blitzed their way to Sunday’s historic provincial decider. Indeed, those scoring statistics go a long way to explaining the approach of Tyrone champions Moortown whose defensive approach frustrated Hugh McGrath’s men for long periods at Owenbeg.
Eventually though, Steelstown broke them down and Bradley says he was always confident they had enough to win even if it wasn’t in the swashbuckling style of the victories over Donaghmoyne and Butlersbridge.
“Winning Derry gave us a bit of freedom to go out and play,” explained the young forward, “With the Derry championship there was a lot of pressure. Well, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves because we felt we were good enough to win it and had been good enough to win it over the last few years so I think there was a bit more pressure on us to win Derry.
“Once we won Derry it was about playing with a bit of freedom. Going out and play with a bit of freedom, taking each game as it comes. We knew each game was going to be so different and provide different challenges. Moortown was probably the biggest challenge of the lot with that defensive set up they had, they were so well set up.
“We weren’t really thinking about winning Ulster at the start, it was just about taking each game at a time, trying to play our best and see where it takes us. But this is unbelievable. Words can’t describe it. I was honestly speechless at the end of the game.
“It was brilliant that the venue was changed because you just saw everyone in the stand, everyone that has coached you, your family, your friends, it was just unbelievable. A class feeling.”
The victory was a case of third time lucky for Bradley who had been part of the 2016 squad defeated by Castledawson and last season’s which fell to Greenlough in the Derry final.
“I was on the 2016 panel that was beaten by Castledawson but you do think we’ll be back here every year and we never got back until last season and then we lost again so for myself, it was third time lucky,” he smiled
“I have been lucky enough to appear in a few finals but the growth of the team this year is mad compared to the growth over the past five years and that’s credit to the bench we have and the management team.
"This has been building over these last few years but it has really just come all out this season thank God.”
Bradley said they had expected Moortown’s conservative approach but admitted it was frustrating at times with so many players in the Tyrone club’s defensive third.
“In the first half Moortown were brilliant and everything seemed to click for them. They won a lot of breaking balls, every time they turned us over they were up the field scoring or winning a free so of course it was frustrating but we knew that defensive structure was coming. We had been working on it in training and I think the manager mentioned it last week in an interview, but we played our sort of ‘B’ team on Tuesday night in training and they beat us up so they had us prepared for what was coming.
“We were prepared but there’s only so much you can prepare for, the final will always present different challenges.”
And now with an All Ireland semi-final to come, Bradley can’t wait to continue the journey.
“Yes, we have the All Ireland series to look forward to now in a few weeks. Again, we’ll take each game as it come. We’ll have a look at whoever it is on video, set up for them and hopefully beat them.”