Mark Bradley believes he can strike up a potent attacking partnership with Tyrone’s new scoring sensation Lee Brennan.
Brennan took the NFL by storm in his debut season, topping the chart as Division One’s top scorer with a string of brilliant displays of finishing.
And while Bradley is also an accomplished score-taker, his vision and range of passing are the perfect fit for a play-making role that could unlock Monaghan’s miserly defence in tomorrow’s Ulster SFC opener.
Both men have been named in the corners of attack for the clash with the Farney men at Healy Park, with Brennan making his championship debut despite a hamstring injury scare.
“Lee coming in has been a breath of fresh air. The man has bagful of skill and some of the things he can do with a ball are incredible. You seen how well Lee did in the league so he’s a great addition,” said Bradley.
Both men are left-footers, but Bradley dismisses any suggestion that that should discourage manager Mickey Harte from including the pair in his starting 15.
“I wouldn’t say it’s one or the other. Me and Lee get on super and I think we have a great chemistry when we are playing. Having Lee there is absolutely super. He’s so naturally gifted. No matter what sort of ball it is, some of the stuff he can do with the ball is incredible. He has been a breath of fresh air.
“He’s a man that will take on whoever he is on, and go for the jugular, which has been a criticism of Tyrone in the past. I know in last year’s league, we were highlighted for not scoring goals, but he has really added something different.”
Tyrone have faced criticism for their lack of physical presence up front, notably by former attacking star Owen Mulligan, and Bradley and Brennan are two of the smallest forwards currently operating at the top level.
They face a Farney defensive unit not lacking in brawn and conditioning, and if physicality becomes an issue, Bradley expects the necessary protection to be provided by the match officials.
“There will be enough umpires and lines people to police things so hopefully there will be nothing over the edge. Of course Monaghan are physical and they have big men, like the two Hughes brothers and Conor McManus, and the Wylies. They are physically imposing but we have enough big players of our own who are just as daunting to be up against. I don’t think it matters about size. It is a game of skill too. We have all seen players who have bulked up massively but aren’t compatible with inter-county football. If you have the skill as well as dedication and commitment you can make it.
“It’s a challenge coming up against bigger men and at the top level they tend to be as quick as you. My role model growing up was Peter Canavan. He wasn’t the biggest but his skill levels were incredible and way above everyone else. The amount of knocks he took on and off the ball, he still had the skill level and drive to overcome it. You just look to copy the traits of someone like him.”
Tomorrow’s quarter-final will be Bradley’s first Ulster Championship appearance at Healy Park. Indeed, 22 of the 35-man Red Hand squad will be new to the experience, chiefly due to the rarity of a home game — the last was a 2014 tie against Down, which Tyrone won after a replay.
“This is my fourth year involved and I have never played a Championship match at Healy Park. It will be great.
“You would choose to play at home rather than away any day of the week. You are in familiar territory, but at the end up its just another game.
“There’ll be no added pressure, no more than if we were playing in Clones. At the end of the day, the team has a job to do, and that’s what we’re setting out to do. We have stuff we want to try to achieve, and Monaghan are going to try and do their best to frustrate us, and try to quieten the crowd down, but when you’re out there playing, you barely can hear what’s going on around you.”
The Killyclogher man feels it’s vital Tyrone get a win, as a route to the Super 8s via the Qualifiers would be hugely demanding.
“The Monaghan game is going to be crucial. We can’t afford to look beyond it to Super 8s at this stage. It is crucial to get over the first round in your province because you don’t know who you will get in the back door now. You could have had a rough idea in the past but not now. It just makes this match a tastier affair.
“When you go into a Qualifier you haven’t a clue who you will get or where you will be going. It makes the first round in the Provincial series more important. It’s the handier way to get to the Super 8s.”
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