Mark Bradley is determined to keep hitting the targets with Killyclogher
THROUGH countless hours of practice - from the hands, off the turf, right foot, left foot - Mark Bradley has found precision in his kicking.
The 22-year-old can be seen most evenings , often alone, at Ballinamullan with a sackful of O’Neill's footballs, arrowing kicks between the posts. Those long hours of dedication to the perfection of his craft have repaid him generously in gaelic football’s most valuable currency - scores, lots of them.
The Killyclogher attacker topped the scoring charts in this season’s Tyrone championship, hitting an average of six points per game as his side won a first title since 2003. Thirty points in five games, including eight in the replayed final, confirmed Bradley’s standing as one of the county’s top forwards.
He makes his Ulster Club Football Championship debut this Sunday against Cargin at Healy Park, a ground where he has kicked 14 points in his last two appearances, and the Tyrone star aims to keep the sequence going.
If the Red Hand champions are to take out the Antrim side, they will need another big display from their ace finisher, but Bradley insists it’s all about the service he has been receiving, particularly in the final replay against Coalisland.
“The balls in were great, and I’m coming off the loop, it was working out well,” he said.
“It was the boys making the runs that maybe we mightn’t have made the first day. This time, we were bombing. There was three or four men running, and it was just a matter of coming out on the loop.”
Killyclogher will need to re-define targets and find a new source of motivation as they enter the provincial arena. Last weekend’s domestic triumph was driven by hurt and fuelled by regret from their defeat in the county final of 2015. They were a team with a cause.
“It’s been a massive season for us, especially after last year. There was a lot of hurt after that final, and it took a long time to get over it. Up until now, there was still a lot of boys hurting from that," he added.
“After the first game, we got out of it with a draw, and that was very important. To come out with a win means everything to the club. The amount of work the volunteers put in is amazing.”
Dominic Corrigan’s men had to readjust their preparations for the Tyrone SFC final replay when it was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, but they did so comfortably, delivering a stunning performance in the re-scheduled re-match, which they won by 0-20 to 0-6.
“Once we got out, it was just about concentrating on ourselves and trying to improve our own game, because in the first game there was a lot of mistakes and we were just trying to rectify that.”
It was Bradley who led the charge, hitting six points from play in the first half to send his side in at the break seven ahead, and well on their way to a second O’Neill Cup triumph.
“We did get off to a good start, whereas the last day we were very poor in front of the posts," he said, "we missed numerous relatively easy chances, which on another day might have gone over. That was something we set out to do, was get a good start.
"We had targets to hit. We had targets for the first half and targets for the second half, and we were just trying to keep nailing them, because we knew from last year, it can slip away from you very, very quick.
"So it was just a matter of keeping plugging away.”