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Progressive Glen making an impact
By Cian OConnell
Translating underage potential into senior glory remains a demanding challenge for GAA clubs throughout the country. Watty Graham's, Glen traded on promise for so long. Possibilities always existed, but delivering a Derry SFC triumph was the mission they wanted to accomplish.
Now that two county titles have been gleaned Glen are preparing for an AIB Ulster Club SFC decider against Kilcoo at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday. It is an eagerly anticipated encounter.
During the past decade Emmett Bradley has served both club and county. Harrowing defeats were endured, but the past 12 months has brought plenty of enjoyment. Acquiring a winning habit and raising silverware has that sort of a positive impact.
Bradley, though, remembers when the first meaningful steps were taken on this particular journey when Glen became a respected force at underage level. It started back when we were 10, 11, and 12, Bradley recalls.
I just remember we loved, absolutely loved going to training. There was a huge investment in coaching at that level around that time.
Vision was shown. There was a group of people who came together - they obviously weren't content with where we were at as a club, Bradley adds.
Emmett Bradley is a key performer for Glen.
We had to inject a lot of energy into the youth around our age group when we were around U12. Obviously it is starting to pay dividends, but we had a lot of tough days. We were asked huge questions throughout our underage careers, but I think it forged us into a strong group with a lot of character and a lot of ambition.
We knew we could face tough challenges. Again probably the success that has come in the last two years in our own county - that was a long time coming. That is senior football, it is a different animal to underage.
Glen persevered. Eventually the promised land was reached. We had a bit of success at underage at minor and U21 through Ulster, but our ultimate goal as a club and this group of players was to get it at senior level, Bradley acknowledges.
There was nearly an agreement between the players that we wouldn't be content until we got over the line in Derry. It is up to us, I suppose, to begin to write a new tradition for the club. That is what we are really striving to do.
Ultimately it has been a lengthy campaign for Bradley in the jerseys of Derry and Glen, but he is simply embracing the next challenge. Playing into December means that Glen are still playing in high stakes matches. 100 per cent, a few boys would remind you of that, he says.
Obviously with the freezing weather and everything, sometimes it is the last thing you want to do going out the door, but we are absolutely delighted to be involved at this stage of the competition.
Emmett Bradley celebrates following Derry's Ulster SFC Final win in May.
You wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Put the shoe on the other foot, you'd think there were so many years when you were licking your wounds after a bad championship defeat around the quarter-final or semi-final stage in the Derry championship.
You'd just give your right arm to still be involved, we are absolutely delighted and really proud to still be involved at this stage. We also know the huge task we have ahead of us. Again we look at it as an opportunity to test ourselves against ultimately the best club team in Ireland at the minute. So that is something we are excited about.
Derrys Ulster victory, followed by an All-Ireland SFC semi-final appearance means a feel good factor has swept through the county in 2022. How relevant is Derrys improvement for the development of the game? Traditionally the inter-county scene does an awful lot for all football within the county, Bradley replies.
Traditionally Derry schools have been really strong across Ulster and throughout Ireland. We've had quite a bit of success at minor level over the last five or six years, that is slowly, but surely starting to translate. That is a result and a by product of things that continued to be done.
A lot of people were doing the right things. That is starting to come to fruition out on the pitch. They have the structures in place to try to progress players into proper inter-county senior footballers. Hopefully it continues for the foreseeable future and that we continue to compete at that level.
No doubt it probably helps instil a bit of belief for players at club level, that they can compete with anybody within the province. Again we will be keeping our feet well and truly on the ground, trying to prepare as best we can going into this Sunday to see if we can give it a good crack.