'We just have to go back and we have to improve...' Glen star Bradley vows to bounce back from All-Ireland final defeat

Emmett Bradley on the attack for Glen in Sunday's All-Ireland final. Picture Mark Marlow
Emmett Bradley on the attack for Glen in Sunday's All-Ireland final. Picture Mark Marlow Emmett Bradley on the attack for Glen in Sunday's All-Ireland final. Picture Mark Marlow

HE deserved a medal for staying composed during his post-match interview when the gut-wrenching defeat was still so raw and the tears weren’t far away.

And Emmett Bradley deserved a medal for his performance in Sunday’s All-Ireland final too.

He didn’t get one for it either.

The Glen midfielder put in a tireless shift in the Watty Grahams engineroom. He worked all over Croke Park’s rutted surface – one moment he was winning the ball in his own full-back line, the next he was swivelling on the Kilmacud 45 and curling it over the bar with that trusty left boot of his.

Bradley deserved more than he got; the entire Glen team did but Conor Ferris’s fingertip save at the death meant the Dubliners – who’ll know how the Derry men felt because they were equally-devastated losers in 2022 – won by two points and went home triumphant with the Andy Merrigan Cup on their bus.

Afterwards, Bradley paid them a generous tribute.

“We had our opportunities and I suppose we didn’t take them,” he said.

“We probably didn’t do ourselves justice in the first half and we pushed them in the second half but they were good enough to see that off and hats off to them, they were the better team on the day.”

Danny Tallon’s goal after 34 seconds gave Glen the perfect start on Sunday and the Derry and Ulster champions were the better side for the first 15 minutes.

They built up a useful lead but Kilmacud dug in and gradually wrestled back the initiative.

Shane Walsh’s penalty got them back into the game and they led by a point at half-time which, given their dominance at that stage, came at the wrong time for them. The second half was intense, a tit-for-tat struggle with both sides getting their noses in front and then being pegged back.

Glen had chances to win it. Then, in injury-time, Conor Glass went agonisingly close and, from the resulting 45 (and with 16 Kilmacud players defending their goal), Ryan Dougan almost got a toe to Conleth McGuckian’s shot.

“Look, sometimes you get a bit of luck and sometimes you don’t,” said Bradley.

“We maybe worked hard enough to get that wee bit of luck. But again, we can’t rely on that. We had a couple of chances before that where we didn’t manage as well. But look, I am not blaming anybody, I am not blaming Kilmacud. Kilmacud were the better team on the day and we just have to go back and we have to improve.”

Last year Kilmacud were caught on the line by Down’s Kilcoo (who themselves had lost the 2020 final) so Sunday’s victory was redemption for them and particularly their goalkeeper Conor Ferris.

The Dubs were able to put it behind them and the challenge now for Glen is to do the same.

“We came here to win today; that was the objective,” said Bradley.

“We fell short, but the first round of the Derry Championship is what we are looking at now this year. Because that is the only game we are guaranteed, so that’s where our focus will be.

“It’s such a tight group and we are proud of every man in there. Proud of everybody in our club. “Everyone has rowed in behind us and we have given them some good days but… aye, it’s devastating. I don’t know what else to say about it.”

Bradley’s midfield partnership with Glass has put bums on seats throughout Glen’s campaign.

“To get an opportunity to play with Conor is special,” said Bradley.

“He’s the ultimate team-mate. Anybody who plays with him would say that and there will be plenty more days like that.”