Tyrone teenager Conor Bradley keeping his feet on ground ahead of Wembley trip
MAN of the match in a Euro qualifier one Sunday, heading for Wembley the next – it might be hard for Conor Bradley to keep his feet on the ground but the Tyrone teenager is doing his best.
Asked about his long-term future, and the aim of breaking through at parent club Liverpool, the Aghyaran lad kept his sights on the EFL/Papa John’s Trophy Final this coming weekend with Bolton Wanderers against leaders of their division, League One Plymouth Argyle:
“To be fair, I’m just focussing on Bolton at the minute. Obviously there’s going to be a big end to the season, hopefully we can push into the play-offs and we have the Papa John’s final when I go back. Focus on that now and we’ll see what happens in the future.”
Bradley was a force of nature against the Finns, powering forward on the right flank, following on from a fine display in the 2-0 win away to San Marino last Thursday night.
As ever, he showed no fear on the big stage, throwing an opponent to the ground in the opening k.minute after he had dragged Bradley back.
The 19-year-old acknowledged he was pleased with how his career is progressing for club and country: “Yeah, definitely. I’m happy with how things are going. I just need to stay grounded, working hard, and keep getting more better performances like the last two games.”
This has been his first experience of working under Michael O’Neill, after being brought onto the senior scene by his predecessor Ian Baraclough, and he said: “I’ve loved it. He’s been really good, especially with the younger ones, like me and Shea [Charles]. It’s been a really enjoyable week.”
His connection on the right side with Bolton club-mate Dion Charles has been evident, and expected, he said with a smile: “We’ve played something like 40 games together so if we didn’t have a link-up it would be a bit bad. It’s good playing with Dion. We sort of know what each other is going to do now.”
Unfortunately, the only time Northern Ireland got the ball in Finland’s net the ‘goal’ was disallowed for a handball against Charles.
Bradley himself had several shots blocked and it proved not to be NI’s night: “That was it, the ball just wouldn’t go in the back of the net. On another day we could have got a draw or even won the game.
“It’s disappointing, but we’ve still got loads of belief. The group’s wide open so hopefully we can just bounce back in June.”
The men in green could look back on the Finland game as a missed opportunity but Bradley remains optimistic about the summer games against Denmark and
“We hope we won’t have to do that. We felt that we should have got more than we did, but that’s football, that’s how it goes sometimes. We just need to re-group, get back playing with our clubs, and hopefully bounce back in June.”