GAA Football

Emmett Bradley determined to keep his place with Derry

Emmett Bradley (right) turned in a man-of-the-match display for Derry in their National League win over Fermanagh on Sunday. Picture by Philip Walsh
Cahair O'Kane

WITH Fergal Doherty retired and Patsy Bradley’s injury troubles ongoing, the opportunity with Derry is finally presenting itself to Emmett Bradley.

He is not the only one vying for the vacant number 8 and 9 jerseys, but the Watty Graham’s Glen man did his chances no harm with a man-of-the-match display against Fermanagh on Sunday.

Bradley kicked two spectacular points from long range and was to the fore in helping Derry achieve mastery at midfield in the second half, which laid the platform for their victory.

The versatile left-footer was given the nod at the weekend alongside Conor McAtamney, who had a hugely impressive game in the McKenna Cup final defeat by Tyrone.

With new boss Damian Barton seeking to build a new midfield partnership, Bradley has no intention of letting go of his place.

“The fact that I’ve got an opportunity and got some games has helped a lot. It’s all about playing football. You’re not going to improve sitting on the bench so the aim is just to continue playing football and do the best I can.

“He [Barton] has everybody playing to the best of their ability. Nobody’s position is safe.

”Boys are talking about us missing a few players but the boys on the pitch want to keep their jerseys. They don’t want to give their position back easy.”

A surprise starter in the forward line for Derry’s 2014 Ulster Championship tie with Donegal, he played 103 minutes of that summer’s very brief campaign.

But being plagued by injuries such as a troublesome groin has stunted his progression since Brian McIver called him into the Oak Leaf setup, and his decision to head to America last summer ruled him out of the Oak Leafers’ Championship campaign.

Now 22, the athletic Bradley is hoping that his early season form can properly kick-start his inter-county career.

“This is the first real year that I’ve got a couple of games under my belt at the start of the year and got game time. I’m doing my best and keeping myself ticking over and try and stick to what we’ve been asked to do.

“The past couple of years have been sort of stop-start. The club under-21s and minors have been doing well and I was involved with them and involved with St Mary’s in the Sigerson and then injuries got the better of me.

“This year I’ve focussed solely on Derry and that has allowed me to stay on top of injures.”

It’s been a promising start for Derry to the Barton reign, which continued with Sunday’s 3-13 to 1-10 victory over a Fermanagh side that fell away after a good first half.

Derry had looked in trouble after a very poor first half, at the end of which they trailed Pete McGrath’s side by 1-6 to 1-5.

The turnaround saw Derry win 10 kickouts in the second half to Fermanagh’s 5. That was in direct contrast to a first half where Fermanagh won the kickout battle 9-5.

Moving Ryan Bell out from full-forward to midfield alongside Bradley made a difference, while Derry also abandoned the sweeper.

They went man-for-man and their more direct approach towards Mark Lynch and Cailean O’Boyle brought dividends in the shape of a goal apiece for the duo.

The Glen man was keen to impart praise for their midfield domination on those changes.

“The whole team did their bit. It was easier for us when there were no shorts on and the ball was just coming out the middle. We did our job in the middle and broke the ball.

“The boys inside provide an option every time. As well as that you can look to your side and there’s a man supporting you off the shoulder, albeit not in the first half.

“Once we got into the swing of things we can play a couple of different ways. But the boys inside are playing well and hopefully they can keep that up.

“We can move the ball early. We can retain the ball, depending on how the other team is setting up. You have to be smart on the ball. You have to learn to adapt.”

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GAA Football