Decision to miss out on Tyrone season broke my heart admits forward Mark Bradley
QUICKSILVER forward Mark Bradley has admitted it broke his heart having to withdraw from the Tyrone panel for the year ahead – especially because he believes 2019 could be their year.
The Killyclogher man was one of the Red Hands’s best players on All-Ireland final day when, after a flying start, they were eventually overwhelmed by the all-conquering Dubs.
However, Bradley won’t be available to Mickey Harte in the coming season as he completes a one-year Postgraduate Certificate of Education at Liverpool’s Hope University.
Jim Gavin’s Dublin look head and shoulders above the chasing pack as they eye up an historic fifth All-Ireland crown in-a-row, but Bradley says missing this year will be all the more painful because of the Tyrone challenge he expects to see.
“Big time - it’s even harder because I firmly believe it’ll be this year that we will hopefully do it. That makes it even tougher,” admitted the 24-year-old.
“With the year we’ve had, it doesn’t make things easy, so you can imagine how painful a phone call that was [to Harte]. I had been chatting to Mickey for a couple of months, so it wasn’t as if I sprung it on him and he wasn’t expecting it.
“He was trying to assist in every way he could; he was a teacher himself so he knows the work that has go in over here as well.”
Another Tyrone player, Kieran McGeary, found himself in a similar boat at the start of this year but was able to secure a placement back at home that allowed him to commit to the Red Hands’ training schedule from the spring onwards.
Unfortunately for Bradley, that simply wasn’t possible and his course will keep him in Merseyside until the start of May.
“I was very hopeful I was going to be back,” he continued.
“Kieran McGeary was in the same position and I thought I would do something similar to what he did, as in miss the first half of the League and then get a home placement.
“I’ve been trying for a few months but it’s looking like I’m going to be here until July. My course director tried her best to facilitate me as well but it wasn’t to be, so I’ve ruled myself out.
“Even if I was to go home at weekends, that’s a third of the training everyone else is doing, and you really don’t have the time to be coming home every weekend.
“If I had been finished up any earlier - if I’d got a home placement - not a problem, but we don’t finish until the first week in July and you’re nearly into the Super 8s at that stage.
“I wouldn’t want to be in a position where I’m playing catch-up at that stage of the year and then maybe not seeing any minutes. I couldn’t do it.
“It broke my heart having to ring Mickey and tell him this but I need to just get this year over me, get my education and hopefully get into a full-time job.
“Hopefully I’ll have a few more years after that but, as it stands, I’ll not be playing any part this year unfortunately.”
The likes of Darren McCurry, who opted off the panel back in March, and Kyle Coney – last seem in a Tyrone jersey almost three years ago – could be involved during the Dr McKenna Cup after attending recent trials.
And Bradley insists there is “no shortage” of attacking talent fit to the lead the line for the Red Hands in 2019.
“I don’t think it’s a case of replacing me at all - those boys warrant their place from what I saw in the club championship alone. They’re there on their own merits, they’ve been super.
“There’s no shortage of deadly forwards in Tyrone and within the Tyrone panel.”
Speaking at the Dr McKenna Cup launch on Wednesday night, Harte admitted it was a blow to lose such an influential player but is fully understanding of the position Bradley finds himself in.
"It's very disappointing, it's unfortunate, but such is life," said the Red Hands boss.
"Mark's a smart enough young man to know that if he wasn't fully involved with us until July then his chances of being where he would like to be with us for the next few months, if we're still involved at that time... so it's a calculated decision on his part and I'm with him on it."