It's hardly Eoin Bradley’s fault that he’s so good, is it?
You wonder that, if a James Donaghy decided to up sticks and join Kilrea United back in his heydey – if he ever had a heydey – would any fan or coach of Derry’s really have batted an eyelid at it.
Listen, I’ve decided to rekindle my soccer-playing days as well. The old street team, Shanty Shamrocks, has been on ice for too long now and I want to go on to bigger and better things with them at the Bronco Bradley. Does anyone care? Anyone?
Anyone in the GAA community, no? No-one in the dancing fraternity? Surely someone must have one concern.
It doesn’t come with the territory. It comes with Eoin Bradley’s though. Why? Because he’s talented. And that’s that.
Yes, it’s frustrating, it’s even strange to see a top intercounty player choose the Irish League over his county, and it goes against everything pure Gaels and their anti-English mantra stand for. And, as a fan who grew up mesmerised by both Bradleys, it’s a sad, sad day to learn that Coleraine FC ranks higher up the priority chain than Derry does for Skinner now.
It’s mostly heartbreaking though because, throughout last year’s club championship, there has rarely been form like what Bradley treated the pitches of Derry to. It was incredible and he was unplayable and he genuinely looked like he would carry all of the county’s hopes on that ridiculous back of his that holds off defenders for a laugh.
But that shouldn’t be used against him.
Forget for one second that it is entirely his decision. Forget what he owes the county and his club and all the coaches who have invested in him down through the years. Forget that gnawing pain in the stomach that creeps up when you consider that he won’t be ripping Celtic Park apart this season like he has done on so many occasions for a decade now.
Forget that it goes against everything the Gaelic clan stands for that Bradley is willing to turn his back on a potential sellout Ulster final at Clones, on another day in Croke Park, or on a guaranteed 15,000 screaming for his every move against bitter rivals Donegal on the Lone Moor Road in May. Forget that he’s traded it for a meek few on the terraces of the Showgrounds.
Forget all of it and just ask one simple question. Would you really care if he wasn’t so good?
I used to joke with Stephen Cleary when he was flying back from Amsterdam to turn out for Steelstown in our first year in Division One. ‘Do you think anyone would be so desperate to get me back?’ And it wasn’t that he was ever forced to do so and he was actually usually delighted to, but it was the sense of obligation he probably felt. Purely because of his talent. The better you are, the more pressure you’re under to continue to deliver. And a lot of that pressure is coming from the athlete themselves. They sense that expectation that they’ve built off their own bat and they don’t want to let anyone down.
No-one likes the old superhero gripe, ‘I didn’t ask for this.’ They’re told that they’ve been given a gift that would be a shame to waste. They owe it to others who would kill to have what they’ve got. They apparently owe nothing to themselves.
Eoin Bradley has opted to continue playing soccer for Coleraine. It probably won’t be long until they’ve ramped up their demands of his talent and he’ll be getting it in the other ear for deciding to go back to Derry.
But he’s 30 now. Perhaps he owes something to himself. Perhaps he should be allowed to do whatever he wants without half the country raising their eyebrows just because he happens to be good at what he does.
Perhaps we shouldn't be so cynical about a personal decision purely because we want him all to ourselves.
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