Steelstown Brian Ogs Eoghan Bradley on swapping sun, sea and sand for a shot at All Ireland glory
All Ireland Intermediate Club Championship Final: Steelstown Brian Ogs v Trim (Meath): Sunday, Croke Park, 3.30pm
He should be sitting on a Mexican beach, sipping cocktails and watching the sun set over the Caribbean but there’s nowhere Eoghan Bradley would rather be this weekend than Croke Park!
Last summer Steelstown’s livewire forward decided it was time to travel but he had the small matter of the upcoming Derry Senior Championship and a chance rectify two earlier final defeats, the latest of which against Greenlough was still fresh in the 22-year-old’s mind. A quick glance at the calendar, a check with his mates and January was decided upon as an opportune time for a sabbatical and see a bit of the world. Sure what could go wrong? Or right as it turned out!
“(Laughing) Aye, that was the plan anyway,” smiles Bradley, “In July a few friends decided we were going to go travelling in the New Year so I actually quit my job in Dublin in December. I handed in my notice in November so I was away before any of this happened. The boys have been slagging me saying; ‘Jeez, you didn’t believe we would get this far’. I could’ve been working right up until this.
“A few boys are in Mexico at the minute. They’re over there two weeks now so I will be flying out to them after the final. It would be nice to go out there with a medal in the back pocket for sure. I’ll be hoping for that and they’ll be up watching it for sure so that would be good.
“They were kind of waiting on me and I was trying to persuade them to stay on for another few weeks but by the time we got here (to the All Ireland), they headed on without me. There was obviously no chance I would miss this though.”
There’ll be no time for putting feet up this weekend for Bradley, who graduated from UCD in May 2020. The former Derry minor forms part of a potent Brian Ogs forward unit but says no one at Steelstown is under any illusions about the size of the challenge Trim will provide this weekend.
“Now we’re here, it’s becoming real,” explained Bradley, “It’s some buzz and some turnover from the semi-final on Saturday. It’s a big week, an exciting week. We have training tonight, tomorrow night and Friday night so it’s just like any other week in terms of training and it’s just another match at the end of the day.
“(Trim will be) Very tough. They look very physically fit. They are very well set up, very fast, strong and good going forward. They’re forwards are very sharp as well so it will be a very tough match. I saw a post on Facebook that their midfield is very strong as well and they are backed by the whole county.
“It will be a very good test and that’s what you want. You want the best test and play the best teams. They came through a few big battles like ourselves, in the lead up in Leinster and in Meath so they know how to get to finals and know how to win obviously so it will be some test.”
The build up to Sunday is a far cry from the county final heartbreaks of in 2010, 2016 and 2020 but Bradley believes the experience of those lost finals has helped ‘steel’ the new generation of players at the club.
“The amount of heartbreak those boys have been through (the older players) is mad,” acknowledged Bradley, “I remember chatting to (Mark) Foley and ‘Logie’ (Gareth Logue) at the weekend - two of the older boys - and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind me saying that they said last year after the final they were both thinking of giving it up and wouldn’t go another year so I’m sure they’re glad they stuck around.
“We’re (younger players) just lucky to experience this at this age. The likes of Donncha (Gilmore), he’s been a massive addition and for him to come in as an All Ireland winner with Derry minors and potentially get another one here with the club is just massive. I’m sure if he stayed another 10 years he might not be as lucky.”
Bradley says the Brian Ogs players can’t wait to savour Croke Park on a match day but stressed those same past hardships means no one is taking anything for granted ahead of the biggest game in the club’s history.
“We know all about it, we lost three finals in Derry prior to winning this one this year so we know all about it. Finals can be very tough and a lot of nerves can be in play. It’s obviously in Croke Park so a lot of boys will be nervous about that. It’s a big weekend, we’re getting the bus down and everyone is going to be there, family and friends, so that’s a bit of added pressure but I think we have to just remember it’s only another game. The grass is the same and there’s two football nets and a football.
“We have confidence in ourselves and that’s the confidence (Hugh) McGrath gives us, if we play our best then we can win the match. If we can control that then hopefully we will come out the right way.”