Glen keeper Connlan Bradley exorcises bitter memory of Kilcoo defeat

Glen's Connlan Bradley made up for his mistake in last season's semi-final to become an Ulster champion Picture: Philip Walsh.
Glen's Connlan Bradley made up for his mistake in last season's semi-final to become an Ulster champion Picture: Philip Walsh.

WEARING the broadest of smiles after Sunday’s epic Ulster final win over Kilcoo, Glen goalkeeper Connlan Bradley felt he’d finally put to bed the misery of last year’s provincial semi-final defeat to the Down champions.

Bradley blamed himself for Glen’s Ulster exit in 2021 after a stray kick-out led to Kilcoo grabbing the game-winning goal in extra-time.

On Sunday, the 31-year-old converted goalkeeper played a pivotal role in bringing the Seamus McFerran Cup back to south Derry by denying Kilcoo a goal in the 48th minute while playing most of the second half as an auxiliary defender.

Reflecting on last season’s mistake, Bradley said: “It definitely hurt, especially straight after the game. I didn’t want to look or talk to anybody but the boys reassured me that these things happen and they said: ‘It’s not your fault.’

“I did blame myself, that’s just the way I am. If I make mistakes, I’ll blame myself. But I’m over it now – I’m definitely over it now!

“It can happen to any goalkeeper as it’s a very hard position to play. All the wee small moments count. Obviously last year was a very defining moment. There were a few stray kick-outs today too but we put the scores on the board nice and early.”

Bradley, who used to play in attack for Glen, was convinced about going into goal a few seasons ago – and is glad he took the plunge too.

Boss Malachy O’Rourke, who has now guided Watty Graham’s to two Derry senior titles and an Ulster crown, paid a handsome tribute to his goalkeeper following Sunday’s nail-biting victory.

“We never dwelt on last year,” O’Rourke insisted. “You will make mistakes but I suppose it was great redemption for him and he played a major part in this win. But he still had to show that mental courage and I’m just delighted it worked out for him.”

Glen will now face Galway champions Moycullen in next month’s All-Ireland semi-final after they won their first-ever Connacht title beating Sligo’s Tourlestrane in the decider on December 4.

Bradley’s immediate response to playing in an All-Ireland semi-final was now having to postpone his brother Emmett’s stag party in the new year.

“But we’re cancelling it for a good reason,” said the elder sibling.

Being part of this historic Glen team, Bradley said it was “hard to put into words” their provincial win over defending All-Ireland champions Kilcoo.

“I think it’s a place where we belong,” he said.

“We’re a good enough team, we’ve been knocking on the door over the last couple of years and it’s amazing to get over the line. It nearly felt I was playing outfield but the boys are a credit, they worked so hard.

“Kilcoo put a massive press on and I said to the boys: ‘If you need to come back, give it to me, don’t be afraid to.’ I’ve played outfield before so I was reasonably comfortable on the ball.

“You know what Kilcoo bring all the time, they are an amazing outfit, but we got the rub of the green and I think we worked harder and I honestly believe we deserved to win.”

On O’Rourke’s contribution since arriving at the club, the Glen ‘keeper added: “Malachy just brings a whole calmness to it. He’s a breath of fresh air. His man-management skills are second to none. I’ve had good managers in the past but he’s something else. He makes everybody feel so comfortable and so confident in themselves in their ability. I couldn’t praise him any more.”