Derry final spot not even on the radar for Slaughtneil boss Bradley

Meehaul McGrath (right) played a central part in Saturday’s reserve outing for Slaughtneil as he continues his comeback from injury, but manager Paul Bradley (left) isn't banking on the dual star being ready to feature in their final Derry SFC group game against Ballinderry Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Michael McMullan

AN appearance in this year's county final isn't “on the radar” Slaughtneil manager Paul Bradley strongly insists.

Bradley was speaking after the Emmet's needed a 54th minute goal from Christopher Bradley to cement victory over a brave Newbridge challenge on Saturday evening.

The win gives them a chance to top their group should they can avoid defeat away to Ballinderry in their final group game.

Bradley steered Slaughtneil to the 2020 title in his first season as manager after winning five championships as a player.

“That performance wouldn't break any delft the further down the road you go, so it is very much one game at a time,” he said.

“We all know we were nowhere near our best and we have to credit Newbridge on that one, but it's nice to come out when you are not playing your best and still get a result,” he said after addressing his squad.

It was Slaughtneil's third competitive outing with their county contingent back and while strongly not wanting to offer it as an excuse, Bradley acknowledges the difficulty managers have blending players back into a team collective. He also feels the Ulster-winning “high” has carried into club preparations.

“It has definitely helped, when you think of the type of personalities…they help drive it forward.”

Meehaul McGrath played a central part in Saturday's reserve outing as he continues his comeback from injury, but Bradley insists none of his walking wounded will be in the reckoning for the trip to Shamrock Park unless they are fully fit.

Captain Karl McKaigue returns after two seasons with injuries problems, with brothers Paudie and Jerome McGuigan back on board.

Bradley feels there is competition in the squad, with their u-19 winning squad bringing players into the shop window.

“It helps and pushes men on and I think that is the big thing,” he said. “You have two or three on and two or three in the reserves that didn't feature. You have young Shea (Cassidy) who came on and made a massive contribution.

“We have bit of strength and depth and I suppose it is our job to get the best out of that now.”

Bradley hopes Cormac O'Doherty is on his way back from a shoulder injury and insists it's a “waiting game” on Brendan Rogers's return after an arm fracture sustained three weeks ago in league action against Lavey.

“I really don't know, but I hope so (for a prompt return) because of the way he (Rogers) was playing before he got injured, he was brilliant. With a bit of down time, he will be fresh and well rested.”

Padraig Cassidy had an operation on a troublesome groin injury that limited him to 121 minutes of county action since last year's county final.

“It is about how he is getting on, how he is feeling and how his body is feeling,” Bradley said of Cassidy's progress.

“He has not ready to be training at the level we are at. He is battering away on his own. It's how his body comes around after the operation and how the rehab goes.”

Slaughtneil's thoughts turn to hurling this week, with nine of their football starting team expected to feature in manager Michael McShane's plans when neighbours Swatragh visit Emmett Park.

For the rest, it's about “putting the heads down” to prepare for Ballinderry on Friday, September 9.

“We felt we were below par,” Bradley concluded. “We have planned a heavy week this week and after that it is about tailoring to down come match day.”