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'I'd love for her to be here' - Stephen Bradley pays tribute to late mother after Shamrock Rovers' cup win

The Hoops manager helped his side win the trophy for the first time since 1987.

Stephen Bradley celebrates with the FAI Cup trophy.
Stephen Bradley celebrates with the FAI Cup trophy.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

SHAMROCK ROVERS BOSS Stephen Bradley paid tribute to his late mother Bernadette as he celebrated perhaps his greatest moment in football to date.

Bradley won the Premier Division title twice as a player, in addition to being part of the Drogheda side that triumphed in the 2005 FAI Cup final.

Yet Sunday represented his first piece of major silverware as a manager, helping Rovers end 32 years of hurt and claim the cup for the first time since 1987.

Asked about the feelings that went through his mind when Gary O’Neill struck the winning penalty in the shootout against Dundalk, Bradley said: “So many emotions — joy, happiness, sadness. So many emotions going through my body.”

Asked to elaborate on why he felt sad, the 34-year-old coach responded: “Just my mother, I’d love for her to be here to see that and witness that. She’s obviously not. So that’s the bit of sadness, but I know she’d be proud of what we done.”

Bernadette, who in 2016 passed away from cancer at the age of 58, played an integral part in the former Arsenal youth product’s career. In 2014, Bradley told The Irish Times: “My mother was a single parent, she came from nothing, but she negotiated my contracts on her own, which was unbelievable.

“She got me a very good deal, but after that, at 17, it was ‘here you go, go and buy yourself a house or a car…. or both’.

“You think, ‘alright’. You’re 17 and come from Jobstown in Tallaght and you’re living in London with your own house and car. It’s ridiculous.” 

“If I ever wanted a new pair of boots, my mother would work even harder than she already was to get them for me,” he added, in a 2018 piece with the Irish Independent

Without Bernadette’s influence, it is impossible to imagine Bradley getting to this stage where he has overseen a Shamrock Rovers side that has improved significantly in the three years since he was appointed head coach.

Winning a trophy is a major step in this young Hoops team’s development, and an indication they could be a major threat to Dundalk’s dominance for years to come.

Unbelievable credit must go to the board and to Stephen McPhail. When we sat down from day one, we had a plan, but we knew it wasn’t  quick fix, we knew it wasn’t just about getting a team, but that it was about changing that culture and getting this club back to where it belongs, but not just for the night, but where we can sustain the success.

“We knew there would be bumps in the road but when the bumps came, the board and people at the club were ringing me the next day and saying they knew where we were going and what was happening. When you have that belief and backing, it’s very easy to do your job. You’re not acting for tomorrow, it’s what’s coming down the road.

“We started out building a team, and Derry are doing very similar talking, you have to believe in it and feel it’s possible. Back then, it wasn’t, but you have to understand where you’re coming from and where we were, we were fighting for fourth place and we were a million miles off Cork and Dundalk.

We had a squad that was nowhere near ready to compete. We knew all of that. We could have phased players out here and there, but we went in and got rid of 18 players. We were bold, because we had the backing. We said at the very start that you have to have that backing and deep down, we knew where we were.”

In addition to the club hierarchy, Bradley was also keen to praise his players and downplay his own role in the success.

“It’s not about me, it’s about them, it’s about that group. I give them jobs, but they cross the white line, they are the ones that have to show the courage and the character to play the way I ask them to play — and they do that, no matter what the occasion. I know at times it got scrappy, that’s the cup final, but I think the majority of the game, they brought their identity. 

“We obviously have to work. We want to go and build on this now, and win wherever we can win next year. 

“I think the biggest gap we had to overcome was understanding how to get it over the line and win the big game, and we’ve done that. You can’t give that to people, you have to earn it. We’ve earned it and I honestly believe this group will only get better, stronger and grow from this.”

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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