Paddy Bradley: This Derry team have captured county's imagination 

Former Derry star Paddy Bradley admits the excitement the county ahead of Sunday’s Ulster SFC final is nothing like he has ever witnessed.
Paddy Bradley: This Derry team have captured county's imagination 

Paddy Bradley. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Former Derry star Paddy Bradley admits the excitement the county ahead of Sunday’s Ulster SFC final is nothing like he has ever witnessed.

The Glenullin man was 17 when the Oak Leafers last claimed the Anglo-Celt Cup and 19 lining out in the 2000 final defeat to Armagh.
He has fond memories of the enthusiasm that followed Eamon Coleman’s great teams of the early 1990s but this current crop has enthralled their people, he believes.

“I’ve never experienced the county in this way in terms of how much they’ve got behind the senior team. I think a lot of it has to do with where we’ve come from in three years. We were in Division 4 and we’re craving for success and since then we’ve been on an upward trajectory. That we’ve beaten two Division 1 teams including the All-Ireland champions has really captured the imagination of the whole county.
“But let’s be honest we’re coming up against a county who have been in 10 Ulster finals in the last 12 years. They’re very experienced and Derry will have to be at their best again if they’re going to take home the title.”

Derry seemed set to jump to Division 1 this year before they came unstuck against Galway in Dungiven in March. Looking back, Bradley says it was the wake-up call they needed.

“It’s one of them things that escalated quickly. Derry decided to play against the breeze, which in hindsight was probably a mistake and Galway just got a grab of the game and put pressure on the Derry kick-out. There were four or five kick-outs in a row where Galway punished them and they were 10 or 11 points up and the game was over.

“In many ways, it probably didn’t do Derry any harm because there was momentum behind the team and this helped them reset, gave them the kick in the backside they needed and they went back to basics.

“In general, Gaelic football in recent times has been all about ball retention but Derry are going longer a lot more now and you’re seeing the benefits of winning possession higher up the field. Derry and Odhrán Lynch had to look at that and they’ve got great joy going long on occasion against Tyrone and Monaghan. It’s a massive part of their game.”

A card-carrying member of the expansive football club, ask Bradley if he would like to feature in this Derry team, who can mix styles, and his answer is in the affirmative. “Forwards of my era would have to adjust if they were to play these days. Of course I would like to play with this team because they are successful but I would have to adapt.

“Whenever I was playing for those 10 or 12 years, I generally stayed in the full-forward line and boys were doing the work for you but that can’t happen anymore. Even a marquee forward like Shane McGuigan who Derry will rely heavily on Sunday has to do his fair share of tracking back.”
As for whether former Donegal manager and assistant manager Rory Gallagher’s insight into his old charges offers an edge, Bradley isn’t certain. “Any manager worth his salt has fully researched the opposition. Regardless of who Derry were playing, they would studied to the nth degree. Rory would always put an emphasis on video analysis but that goes for every team.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a massive advantage because in Ulster we are in reach of each other. Michael Murphy, for example, would be a common spectator at Derry club games and Derry players would often attend Donegal championship games. There is so much on TV and streaming now that it’s rare you come up against somebody you’ll be unfamiliar with.”

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