Bradley saw his young Oak Leaf side knocked out of the Ulster Championship semi-final 0-11 to 0-09 by Cavan in the Armagh Athletic Grounds on Friday night but having seen their build up hindered by injury and unavailability, the former All Star said he was very frustrated for a group of players he had thoroughly enjoyed working with.
“It’s disappointing because I thought we were the better side,” said the Glenullin legend after the game, “We created more than enough chances and probably should have been out of sight. At 0-7 to 0-5 we switched off a bit and fair play to Cavan, they are a good side and battled right to the end.
“I just thought they were more clinical and took more of their chances. They used their bench really well and you know yourself, I’ve already talked about the problems we have had. Cavan were fit to bring on really fit men who could make an impact and we maybe didn’t have that luxury.
“Some of our best players, and let’s be honest, half of my forward line, hasn’t been available to me all year. The likes of Lachlan (Murray), maybe he didn’t have his best game but he didn’t train on Wednesday night because he picked up an injury on Tuesday at senior training. That’s the obstacles that have been placed in front of you and that’s exactly what has happened.
“This year, with this group of players, there have been obstacles placed all year, most of the time from within our own county which is the disappointing thing. They have jeopardised the success of a really good side to try and get promotion for the seniors to Division One which is fair enough but I just think it’s short term thinking.
“I am really, really disappointed but, look, I’m also really, really proud and that’s my over-riding feeling. I thought the players to a man battled right to the end. We died with our boots on and I couldn’t fault any of those players who took the field tonight. I am really proud of how they performed and they are gutted in there.”
Injuries to key players such as Matthew, Enda and Callum Downey, Eoin McEvoy, Jack Scullion and Odhran McLarnon have robbed Bradley of the core of a side who would have been among the favourites for the Ulster title.
“I had a good chat with Conor Laverty at the end of last year when Down won the Under 20 Championship and he said one of the main factors why they won it was they were fit to train with their full panel of 30, 35 men unhindered, unopposed,” added Bradley, “Cavan were the same tonight; Donegal and Tyrone on the other side are the same. We haven’t trained as a group ever.
“We have been working all year with numbers around 18 or 19. We’ve had a few men injured ourselves from our own training but the vast majority of injuries that I’m dealing with didn’t come from Under 20 training or matches and that’s the most disappointing thing.
“I begged at the start of the year - it’s not like I am crying over split milk now, it’s not as if we I didn’t foresee the problems. We had a meeting about this back in November and agreements were made and agreements were broken. That is the result of it tonight.
“When your squad depth isn’t there and your going down the stretch in an Ulster semi-final, and maybe you haven’t got four or five players you should have, it tells in the end and that’s exactly what happened tonight.”
Asked if his experience would put him off managing at this grade going forward, Bradley was unequivocal in his response.
“Well, you don’t need to have a crystal ball to answer that one,” he added, “Let’s just say the last two years, while they have been really enjoyable in terms of working with the players, there are too many other things going on in the background.
“As I said, the obstacles that have been placed in my way from within our own county doesn’t make it an appealing job.”