Derry’s Emmett Bradley knows team’s standard must improve to beat Mayo

Mickey Harte’s side limped into the preliminary quarter-finals after two defeats

Emmett Bradley of Derry. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Derry star Emmett Bradley says he cannot put his finger on the exact factor behind his side’s struggle for form but knows they need to get back to their early season heights this weekend.

While the Watty Graham’s man bagged the goal to break Westmeath last weekend, Bradley knows a similar performance will not cut the mustard on Saturday.

The league champions face Mayo on Saturday in Castlebar knowing they need to find the spark that propelled them to the most consistent team in Ireland on their return to Division One after nine seasons.

After winning the league with their dramatic penalty shoot-out win against Dublin, they came a cropper against Donegal in the Ulster Championship opener, shattering any hopes of a third successive title.

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“I don’t think I can put my finger on any one particular thing, to be honest,” says Bradley who highlighted how Jim McGuinness had six months from the draw to the Donegal ducks in a row.

“From all the talk since, and seeing how they operated, their focus was totally on that game. They produced a serious performance that day.

“We certainly weren’t able to match them. That can happen sometimes when you think you are prepared for it and you can very easily miss.

“In games, momentum can swing very easily when you leak goals like have been doing and it’s hard to bounce back whenever you’re in the moment.”

There were signs of hope in defeat to Galway before Armagh gave Derry another lesson, taking the tally of championship goals conceded to nine. Derry’s plan is to find a better way to steer clear of danger in the white heat of championship battle.

Harte’s side rolled out a more balanced performance against Westmeath. The one goal chance they did cough up was closed out when Odhrán Lynch denied James Dolan.

“We did it a little bit better against Westmeath on Saturday but one thing we do know, it won’t be good enough for Mayo,” Bradley said of their next challenge.

“We’re in the knockout stages now, there are no more chances. The format of the All-Ireland has left us hanging in there [after three defeats].

“We won’t get another opportunity like that again, so we need to get back to the levels we were at earlier in the season.

“We’ve shown in the past that they’re able to get to those levels but we need to get back there sooner rather than later.”

One such example was Derry’s 3-15 to 2-13 win when the sides met earlier this season in Castlebar thanks to goals from Shane McGuigan, Conor McCluskey and Niall Loughlin.

“It’s good to have that experience but there’s a huge difference between league and championship,” Bradley quickly added.

“We’ve saw over the last number of years the type of performances that Mayo can produce on the big days in the championship. We also saw what they were capable of last week [in the draw with Dublin].

“They probably should have got a win, they will feel they should have saw it out but, now, they’ve had to take a different route, much like ourselves.”