Mark Bradley delighted to be involved in Tyrone's big day
IT'S perhaps a measure of the quality of Mickey Harte’s extended squad that he has taken Tyrone all the way to an All-Ireland final and still doesn’t have a settled team.
The Sam Maguire decider against Dublin on Sunday week will be the Red Hands’ 10th Championship game this season, yet places in the starting 15 are still up for grabs
as the manager weighs up his options and injury situations are assessed.
Whether Tyrone should begin or finish the game with what’s perceived to be their strongest team will be the subject of deep and agonising consideration and debate, both within the management group and among the fans as the days count down towards September 2.
What is certain is that the deployment of replacements off the bench, particularly in the final quarter, will form an important part of the strategic approach of both Harte and his counterpart Jim Gavin, who will have Sky Blue riches in abundance waiting in reserve.
One of the issues Harte will have to decide upon is the number 13 shirt.
Should it go to clinical finisher Lee Brennan or to playmaker Mark Bradley?
Bradley started the Super 8s clash with Donegal, but it was Brennan who got the nod for the All-Ireland semi-final against Monaghan.
Both men are almost certain to feature at some stage, but Bradley is philosophical about the roles they will undertake on the day.
“It’s a team game, and there’s 30, 33 people looking to play their part,” he said.
“So whoever is lucky enough to start, so be it, and whoever comes off the bench will have another massive role to play.
“It’s a team sport, and we have a good bench to call on.”
Tyrone have lost four semi-finals since last winning the Sam Maguire back in 2008.
Now they are faced with a golden opportunity which Bradley says they must make the most of, and create their own piece of history to add to the glorious chapter written by the men of the Noughties, who won three All-Ireland titles.
“We have been to enough
semi-finals now, and I have been involved in a few,” he said.
“This was my third, and I know the hurt that came along with the previous two.
“That alone was a massive driving force for myself and I’m sure the rest of the team as well.
“But we have another chance to create a wee bit of history.”
Few people outside the county are giving Tyrone a chance of shocking a Dublin side on course for a fourth successive title.
But Bradley feels the Red Hands will thrive on the challenge.
“It’s a massive, massive test. And you can’t dispute the facts. They have won the last three in-a-row, and most people would say pretty handily.
“But it’s a challenge, it’s an
All-Ireland final, it doesn’t matter who’s there.”
The Killyclogher man has total faith in manager Harte to construct a plan to exploit any weaknesses that the Dubs may have.
“I’ll leave that to Mickey, I don’t know what his plans are.”
Bradley accepts that the players have an opportunity that may come along just once in their careers,
and they must take maximum advantage.
“I’m sure the boys from previous All-Ireland-winning teams thought they were going to be about every year, but they don’t come around that often, and we won’t be there to just take part.
“We have a lot of work to do, but it’s an All-Ireland final.”