Sport

Emmett Bradley: Glen still learning in heat of Ulster battle

Emmett Bradley turns and runs back after kicking what turned out to be the match-winning score in Glen's victory. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Emmett Bradley turns and runs back after kicking what turned out to be the match-winning score in Glen's victory. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin Emmett Bradley turns and runs back after kicking what turned out to be the match-winning score in Glen's victory. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

THE duels with Slaughtneil that saw them wrestle away control in Derry, close run things against the likes of St Eunan’s, Errigal Ciaran, Cargin and Kilcoo that would ultimately deliver Ulster glory – Glen have learned fast how to keep cool in the eye of the storm, admits midfielder Emmett Bradley.

It was only in 2021 that the Maghera men finally got their hands on the county crown for the first time and, after falling short on their maiden venture into the provincial arena, Glen would go on to lift the Seamus MacFerran Cup second time around.

A few years down the line, the experience of those campaigns saw them book their place in another Ulster decider after Saturday’s tense victory over Naomh Conaill – progress secured courtesy of a booming Bradley point with the last kick of the game.

An AJ Gallagher leveller deep into added time looked set to send the sides into another 20 minutes, only for Malachy O’Rourke’s defending champions to keep calm heads and see out the job in style.

“We’ve got a lot of experience over the last three years in terms of getting over tough battles like that, and those days stand to you - we’re the better for it,” said Bradley.

“Anybody who knows sport knows games this time of year are going to be wars of attrition. It’s the same all over, boys going hammer and tongs, there’s never going to be anything easy, or very rarely, especially at this stage.

“We knew Naomh Conaill, the type of team that they are, the competitiveness that they bring – they have a lot more Ulster campaigns behind them than we have - that it was going to be a serious battle.

“We’re still relatively new to this competition. Yes we won it last year, but that was coming off only our second ever Derry championship, so we’re still fairly inexperienced at this level, still plotting our way, trying to do the best we can.

“Everybody in this competition wanted to be where we are now, in an Ulster final. It wasn’t high scoring, not much beautiful football, but there was no shortage of excitement there at the end.

“We’re really looking forward to the next two weeks.”

It will be a date with Scotstown then, opponents well known to manager O’Rourke with the likes of Rory Beggan, the Hughes brothers – Darren and Kieran – Allstar Conor McCarthy and Jack McCarron all key men during his time in charge of Monaghan.

For Bradley, though, it was important to savour the moment too after his match-winning heroics in Omagh on Saturday – Glen’s composure crucial as Conor Glass managed to pick out his midfielder partner despite blue jerseys converging from all angles.

Once it landed in Bradley’s hands, there was only one place the ball was going to go.

“You have to take them shots, especially when the chance presents itself,” said the 30-year-old.

“I was striking it well there tonight, I was never not going to shoot with so little time left.

Conor did brilliantly to see the pass, a lot of other players wouldn’t have had the presence of mind to do that but he was fit to find it.

“I didn’t know it was the last play but I knew it was there or thereabouts. I don’t think that makes a difference - Malachy talks about the first minute being the same as the 60th, so we just try and do the right thing in any given play.

“Fortunately that opportunity opened itself up.”