GAA Football

"Don't abandon the GAA's best competition": Bradley

Slaughtneil celebrate after beating Magherafelt during the Derry Senior Football Championship Final at Bellaghy on Sunday. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

SLAUGHTNEIL manager Paul Bradley has added his voice to the growing calls for the GAA authorities to look again at their decision to abandon “the best competition the GAA has” in the provincial and All-Ireland club championships.

Having won five Derry and three Ulster titles as a player, he collected his first as manager as the Emmet’s overcame holders Magherafelt to win their first in three years.

With speculation last week that the Munster Council are looking at hosting their own provincial championships at some stage, pressure has grown in the aftermath of county finals for the All-Ireland series to be accommodated.

“It probably is very frustrating. To me, I’ve said it before, the provincial championships are the best competition the GAA has,” he said.

“I think it’s a crying shame they aren’t trying to pursue it in some shape or fashion at some point. I understand county has to come into the equation now but I don’t see why they couldn’t squeeze it in after Christmas.

“What would it take to run it, two months? We’re in strange times but I think they could make a space for it.”

His side’s win came with a viewer discretion notice, with their profitable start allowing them the small bit of breathing space that allowed them to dictate the game’s terms and edge across the line.

The impact the Covid pandemic has had on sport has been unique but for Slaughtneil, there was the strange sense that they were glad of the break.

Having been involved in Ulster Club competition in either football or hurling every season since their breakthrough year in 2014, the added toll of inter-county duty for several key players had left them in desperate need of respite.

“They’ve been on the go nearly non-stop this six or seven years and it has to take its toll on them,” said Bradley.

“They got a fairly good break. We stopped in March, they took three weeks or a month and in fairness then, they went right back at it individually.

“They put in a lot of running sessions. They couldn’t do anything with the ball but they kept the running going and their gym going, and we were in good shape for not having had collective training for 12, 13, 14 weeks.”

Magherafelt boss Adrian Cush did question the decision to hold four games on the same pitch in Bellaghy across 29 hours but made no excuse of it, conceding that Slaughtneil had been the better team and that his side’s tally of 1-4 was never going to be enough to retain the title.

“People continually talk – and the media have to do what they want to do - about Magherafelt only scoring 12 points. Twelve points would have won you now 13 of the county finals in Derry since 2000.

“Our objective was to keep them to 10 points. They’ve got to 11. We had a couple of poor wides and a goal chance at the end, which to be fair, I wouldn’t say it would have been robbery but we missed it.

“Slaughtneil were very clinical, especially in the first quarter. Every time they attacked, they got a score off it. Fair play to them.

“There’s no point getting inside if you can’t convert, and that’s something we have to look at. Any team has to look at that. You have to put points on the scoreboard and unfortunately today, 1-4 was never going to win a match.

“On the whole, we can’t have any complaints. Slaughtneil were the better team.”

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GAA Football