TYRONE’S livewire forward Mark Bradley is embracing the hype set to engulf the county ahead of their mammoth All-Ireland semi-final date with Dublin on August 27.
The Red Hands cruised into their third semi-final appearance of the decade with last Saturday’s 3-17 to 0-8 procession against a punch-drunk Armagh side.
While recognising that Dublin will be a different proposition entirely, the Killyclogher man isn’t cocooning himself from the mania destined to grip the county in the coming weeks.
He said: “There’ll be a lot of hype like there was two years ago when we lost to Kerry in 2015. It creates a bit of buzz around the county which hasn’t been there for a long time which is great to see. It’ll be a massive step up again, each game that you play gets tougher and more intense.”
Bradley scored three smashing points from play against the Orchard County and played a key role in putting the game to bed on the quarter hour, winning a penalty expectedly converted by Peter Harte. Dinking over points at GAA headquarters isn’t as straightforward as he makes it look, however.
“It was tough at times to get the ball, they filtered a lot of men back especially when we were trying to break. It was difficult at times to get room and it was a nice to get a couple of points, it’s good for the confidence as well.
“Croke Park is obviously a bigger pitch which will suit me. You just have to keep going, it can be tough in there at times but it’s where you want to be playing and hopefully I get a few more games.”
While it was Bradley’s best performance of the championship season to date, he was nonetheless given the curly finger with 51 minutes on the clock as Ronan O’Neill entered the fray. Not that he was baffled by the decision:
“Not at all, it’s tough going so it is, especially 70 minutes at that intensity. At the end of the day it’s a squad game, a panel game, and we’ve 30 boys itching to get a go. So I wasn’t annoyed at all.”
Bradley was also awestruck by the substitute cameo of 19-year-old Ardboe star David Mulgrew. He was dropped prior to throw-in but bounced back with a personal haul of 2-1 during his second-half run-out. He also namechecked a few other colleagues who have had to be content with a secondary role this season, for one reason or another.
“It’s testament to the man. He [Mulgrew] came in and kicked 2-1 and could’ve won man of the match. There’s a great squad at the minute. You’ve a man coming in and kicking 2-1, Darren [McCurry] got a brilliant score as well. Everyone who came on did well, like Rony [O’Neill] and Richie Donnelly. It’s great to see Richie back after all the injuries he’s had.”
Armagh’s four-game winning streak during the qualifiers made them potentially tricky opponents last Saturday. Tyrone were well-warned, however, considering they were ambushed by a qualifier-hardened Mayo at the same stage last year.
This time around, Tyrone weren’t to be denied and stand one step away from their sixth ever appearance in the All-Ireland SFC final. They can take heart from their drawn encounter against Dublin this year’s league, during which Bradley was controversially sent off for an innocuous challenge on Johnny Cooper.
“We’re always confident, we were wary about Armagh because they had a good run in the qualifiers and they had a bit of momentum about them. It’s always a dangerous place as we found out last year. A team coming through the backdoor is always dangerous so it’s good to get over.”
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