Derry Under 20 manager Paddy Bradley believes last week’s opening round victory over Antrim will mean his players can play with more freedom in Friday’s Ulster Championship semi-final against Cavan in the Armagh Athletic Ground (8pm).
The seven day turnaround from the 0-12 to 0-09 quarter-final victory over the Saffrons means Bradley will once again have to plan without the services of a plethora of players including Matthew, Enda and Calum Downey, Eoin McEvoy and keeper Jack Scullion with only Ronan McFaul appearing to have a chance of facing Cavan. With the squad backboned by the 2020 All Ireland minor winning team, Derry went into last week’s game as odds-on favourites, something Bradley believes contributed to an at times nervous display from the Oak Leafers.
“I’ve watched the Cavan/Monaghan game three times over this week and they are big, very physical, very strong and look well set up,” explained the Glenullin legend, “They played really well against Monaghan, hit them on the break early doors and put themselves into a very good position meaning Monaghan were having to force things and chase the game but Cavan kept them at arm’s length the whole way through.
“They’ve a couple of really good forwards, young Darragh Lovett, their inside forward Tiernan Madden and their centre-half forward Fionntán O’Reilly so they’ve plenty of talented footballers. Defensively they looked very well set up so it is going to be a difficult game but especially considering we have men out.
“But look, we are going there full of confidence as well. We didn’t play anywhere near to our potential last week against Antrim, it was a nervous performance from ourselves. We went in as big favourites so we nearly had nothing to win, nothing to gain because everybody thought we were going to win the game easy but I knew that wasn’t going to be the case. This week we can play with a bit more freedom.”
This week has been relatively plain sailing for a squad which has seen its championship preparations beset by injury and unavailability and Bradley admits the quick turnaround between matches has worked against the Oak Leafers.
“Unfortunately not,” explains Bradley, when quizzed if any of his ‘walking wounded’ will be back in time to face Cavan, “Ronan McFaul is possibly the only one who is available for selection. Obviously he hasn’t been able to play a plie recently and missed three or four weeks with his hamstring injury so we have a call to make on him, whether or not we risk him from the start or keep him in reserve.
“Look, the quick turnaround can work in your favour if you have everybody fit and you build a bit of momentum but obviously we are on the other side of that in that we are carrying a lot of injuries and we haven’t got time for them to heal so it’s disappointing that way but we are ready for Friday.”
Lachlan Murray and Charlie Diamond were the stars of the show last week, contributing all but one of Derry’s 12 points and Bradley was delighted to finally be able to get a bit of work done on the training pitch this week with the young Desertmartin player who only joined up with the Under 20 squad two days before last week’s game.
."We haven’t played a lot together and we’ve talked about the problems with the likes of Lachlan who hasn’t even been training with the boys but yeah, we’ll come on from that game against Antrim," he added.
“We’ve had a decent week’s training. We’ve haven’t been fit to do a load of work obviously because of the quick turnaround between games so it hasn’t been anything very intense but we have worked on our own game, our attacking play, our kick-outs and other things so we are looking forward to get going on Friday.”