Paddy Bradley admits Derry U20s will have to improve ahead of Ulster Championship semi-final

Derry Under 20 boss Paddy Bradley admits his young Oak Leafers will have to improve on Friday’s victory over Antrim when they travel to the Athletic Grounds this week to take on Cavan in the Ulster Championship semi-final.

By Michael Wilson
Tuesday, 5th April 2022, 1:04 pm

Derry’s preparations had been badly hit but injury and unavailability with Bradley admitting pre-match that the build up had been disjointed. It showed at times in the opening half in Owenbeg but Derry improved notably as the game wore on with a much better second half eventually seeing them home with three points to spare.

With only a seven day turnaround, Bradley will be hoping to have the likes of Matthew, Enda and Callum Downey and Eoin McEvoy back in contention for this Friday when they meet a Cavan side who dismissed Monaghan 1-11 to 0-03.

“We were forcing it a bit too much in the first half,” explained Bradley, “The amount of ball we coughed up inside the Antrim ‘45’ where we had numbers and overlaps created, but just the final pass wasn’t there. There was nearly too much eagerness from the players. Antrim, to be fair, defended really well. They sucked us in and some of their last ditch defending was brilliant.

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Derry Under 20 manager Paddy Bradley. (Photo: George Sweeney)

“We talked about having patience in the second half and we did that. In the first half we tried to run everything whereas in the second we varied it, we ran the ball well at times but we also kicked it in and in fairness to Lachlan (Murray) and Charlie (Diamond), anything we kicked in stuck and we were fit to get the runners off them.

“Look, it is all about getting over the line. I didn’t buy into the hype that Derry were favourites for Ulster or 1/12 shots to beat Antrim. A lot of these boys have played with those Antrim players at school and university and we knew the quality they had.

“I know Niall Jackman a long time and he is a very, very astute coach so we knew they would be well set up and they were so we were just delighted to finally get over the line.”

With Charlie Diamond superb throughout, Lachlan Murray’s second half display eventually broke the Antrim resistance only two days after the Desertmartin man joined up with the U20 panel following his exertions with Rory Gallagher’s senior panel. Bradley was delighted by the forward’s impact and said the team had improved as the game wore on.

Antrim’s Conall McGirr chases Patrick O’Kane as the Derryman breaks forward at Owenbeg on Friday evening last. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2213GS – 059

“Remember the boys who were with the senior panel haven’t done a lot with the group,” added Bradley, “They have done a few team meetings etc but it’s not the same when they are not on the field actually working through things and as the game wore on we were getting better and better.

“You could see the link play was better and we were starting to get the ball into our full forward line better. I thought in the first half we were too keen to carry the ball and there were men playing with their heads down but we got Lachlan into the game more in the second half. I thought him and Charlie Diamond were brilliant.

“Charlie, with his free-tacking was unerring and fair play to him because on a night like tonight, when the game is so low scoring, you need your free-taker on form and Charlie over the last few weeks has really stepped up.

“We were fortunate to be able to go in at half-time and get the chance to regroup but it was always going to take until the last five or two minutes to pull away. I have been preaching that to the boys all week. We knew championship games in Ulster are very hard won, particularly at this level with disjointed preparation, with injuries and senior football, club football, university football and schools football so look, we are delighted but for Cavan next week we will have to vastly improve.”

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