GAA Football

Bradley has no regrets about stepping away from Tyrone as Killyclogher reap the benefits

Mark Bradley (centre) was among seven Tyrone players who stepped away from the reigning All-Ireland champions earlier this year

FORMER Tyrone attacker Mark Bradley has no regrets over his decision to quit the inter-county game at the age of 28.

A first opportunity since 2015 to devote all his energies to his club has coincided with an upturn in the fortunes of Killyclogher.

Six games into the 2022 season, the St Mary's have lost just once and are among the front-runners in the Division One League title race.

Club colleague Tiernan McCann was also among seven Red Hand players who stepped away from the reigning All-Ireland champions in a mass departure earlier this year, and he too has been central to Killyclogher's resurgent form.

The importance of Bradley and McCann to the club is borne out by their appointment as joint captains for the 2022 season.

The Tyrone squad was left seriously depleted by the withdrawal of the pair, along with Ronan O'Neill, Hugh Pat McGeary, Paul Donaghy, Lee Brennan and Michael Cassidy.

“I suppose in other years, you're coming in and out, so it's nice to be there for the full year, and to be with the squad throughout and see wee changes and things building throughout the League,” said Bradley.

“I'm enjoying it, but it doesn't feel that different, because you come in from playing with Tyrone for League games, and it's just that it's more League games on top of that.

“And club football isn't any different than it was, it's still the same old hard-hitting football.”

Killyclogher secured a hard-fought 1-10 to 0-9 win over second placed Greencastle at the weekend, and while a strong League challenge is the immediate priority, the long-term focus is on a first round Championship tie against holders Dromore.

“It's a long way away, there's a lot of League games to be played before we even start thinking about the Championship.

“The draw is made, and it could be another three months before it's played, so we'll not be looking too far ahead.”

With Kieran Howe back for a second spell as Killyclogher manager, a promising blend of youth and experience is developing, with the seasoned Conall McCann, Emmet McFadden and Danny Gorman complemented by current Tyrone panellists Nathan Donnelly and Matthew Murnaghan, along with All-Ireland U20 winners Michael Rafferty and Gavin Potter.

“There's a good blend, you need the older statesman with that wee bit of experience that we showed neat the end, but you also need the pace of those young lads coming through, and they're playing very well,” said Bradley.

“It's the first year for a lot of them in senior football, so to have that confidence, it's going through the whole squad, really, that wee burst of energy.”

Despite a morale-boosting away win over a newly promoted Greencastle side that had made a highly impressive return to senior football, having suffered just one previous defeat, Bradley is taking nothing for granted.

“In the Tyrone League, it's very hard to know where you stand. You can go out one week and get beaten by ten points and then the next game you can go and win by a couple.

“You don't read too much in to where you stand in the League table, because that game could have gone either way.”

“They looked sharp, and caused us a lot of trouble, and there was just a point in it up until the last kick of the ball.”

The outcome could have been different had goalkeeper Rian McCaul not pulled off two excellent first half saves to deny Ryan Gumley and Sean Warnock in the first half.

“McCaul saved us twice, they were straight through on goal. It just seemed to come over the top of everyone and they were straight through. We'll have to take a wee look at that.”

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