Eoin Bradley says a grown-up Derry will face Down at Celtic Park

Eoin Bradley


Celtic Park, Derry
Sunday, 2 June
14:00 BST
Live on BBC TWO Northern Ireland; live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster 1341 MW and BBC Sport Website

Eoin Bradley believes a more "grown up" approach is bearing dividends for Derry footballers this season.

The Oak Leafers start their Ulster Championship campaign against Down on Sunday and Bradley believes a unified Derry will line out at Celtic Park.

"You have to grow up some time. If you go looking for a row, you'll get a row," Bradley told BBC Sport NI.

Bradley kept his composure after being substituted in Derry's Football League Division 2 final win over Westmeath.

The Glenullin man was probably Derry's best player in the first half of the league decider but was then hauled off by manager Brian McIver midway through the second period.

"I had a good first half and in the second half a couple of balls didn't go my way," recalls Bradley.

"Brian said to me after the game that he thought my legs had gone.

"At the end of the day, Emmett (McGuckin) came on and did a job and gaelic football is now a 20-man game.

"I wasn't happy about being taken off. I could have spat out the dummy and taken it thick but I just knuckled down and worked harder."

However, Bradley admits that he is determined to avoid giving McIver any justification for substituting him in the future.

"Hopefully, it will not happen again and my work will pay off against Down."

Bradley says Derry will go into Sunday's contest "quietly confident".

"As a Division 1 team, they'll be that little bit quicker and sharper than the teams we've been playing this year.

"It's going to be tough enough. There will be 12 or 13 men behind the ball, the way Ulster football is.

"It's going to be a one or two-point game and hopefully we can get on the right side of the result."

Derry boss McIver should know plenty about the Down squad having worked as James McCartan's assistant in the 2010 and 2011.

McIver's influence was lauded by McCartan and Down players alike as the Mourne County reached the All-Ireland decider in 2010 when they were narrowly beaten by Cork.

But McIver and another current Derry backroom man, Paddy Tally, both left the Down set-up in August 2011 after the team failed to rescale the heights of the previous year.

Despite his two years with the Down squad, McIver scoffs at suggestions that he will have the inside track on McCartan's team.

"No absolutely not," insists McIver.

"I know a good percentage of them. Brenday (Brendan) McVeigh, Benny McArdle, Kevy (Kevin) McKernan, Aidan Carr, Callum King, Ambrose Rogers, Benny Coulter, Conor Laverty and Mark Poland but there are four or five other new lads in there now.

"James McCartan and Jerome Johnston will reckon that they understand how Paddy Tally and myself work with a team but as soon as the ball is thrown in, that will be totally irrelevant."

With Down also reaching last year's Ulster Final, McIver accepts that the Mourne players have the edge in terms of experience but he says that he is managing a youthful bunch of players that "are playing out of their skins at the minute".

"It has the makings of a really, good game of football. I'd settle for a classic as in the 1994 game but hopefully with a different result this time."

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