The Leeside Legends series: Michael Bradley was a cracking Cork scrum half

The Leeside Legends series: Michael Bradley was a cracking Cork scrum half
Michael Bradley was a great scrumhalf for Ireland moved into coaching after. 

MICHAEL BRADLEY is one of the finest scrum-halves this country has ever produced.

Straight and honest as a dye, Bradley was a very good motivator and a great team player.

Despite his undoubted talent and to the puzzlement of his many admirers, the former Cork Constitution scrum-half was unfairly made the scapegoat for many an Irish defeat during the 1980s and early ’90s.

Born in Glasheen in 1962, Bradley went to Glasheen National School, but it was while attending Presentation Brothers College that he took up rugby.

Bradley won a Munster Schools Junior Cup medal in 1976, followed by a Munster Senior Cup in 1980.

He joined Cork Con after leaving school and he helped them win the 1981 Munster Junior Cup.

Three Munster Senior Cup wins followed, in 1982, 1985, and 1989, the latter when Bradley captained the team at Temple Hill.

He gained his first Ireland cap in 1982, at U21 level.

Two years later, Bradley won his first cap with the Irish senior team, and from 1984 to 1995 he amassed 40 caps, but, sadly, he was consistently the target of the Irish media.

Undaunted, Bradley concentrated on his game, always giving his best, and demonstrated that he was Irish rugby’s ultimate survivor.

Bradley played a starring role when Ireland won the Triple Crown in 1985. He produced some riveting performances.

Following 22 consecutive internationals, he was dropped after Ireland’s 35-3 humiliation to England in 1988.

Despite one game against Wales in 1990, when he broke his ankle, Bradley was shunned by selectors for the next four years.

He was recalled in 1995, but after the Five Nations Championship, he decided to call it a day.

“I enjoyed my international career, despite the flak I had to take at times and, for me, there is no better feeling than wearing the green jersey of Ireland,” Bradley said.

Bradley said that rugby has developed hugely since he played.

“You have to remember that we were amateurs playing against professional players in Australia and New Zealand and, basically, we were 10 years behind.”

Bradley admired the skills of players like Pat O’Hara, of Cork Con, Paul Dean, of St Mary’s, Brendan Mullin, of Blackrock, and unsung heroes like Denis McBride, of Ulster, and Terry Kingston, of Dolphin.

Munster’s success in the last few years has been good for rugby, said Bradley.

“The various Munster teams over the years have made the sport of rugby fashionable, as there is an unbelievable brand of supporters, not alone from Ireland, but in all parts of Europe,” Bradley said.

“There is little doubt the team spirit in Munster was incredible, and the supporters just love the teams, because they have a special rapport that is not seen with any team in Europe.”

Winning the inaugural All-Ireland League in 1991, as a player with Cork Con, and coaching them in 1999, were two major highlights for Michael.

In July 2003, Bradley took up the coaching position with Connacht, following his stint with the Irish U21 team. After stints at club level with Edinburgh and with CSM Bucuresti, he is coaching in Italy, with Zebre.

“Italy, as a country, is fantastic, because I knew people were in the right positions in the organisation, so it made it an easier transition for me,” Bradley said.

Few would doubt that Michael Bradley was a dedicated player who served his club, province, and country with honour.

He played the game with style and his commitment to the cause could never be questioned.

In typical Irish style, it took his retirement for some of his critics to accept that his qualities on the pitch far outweighed his flaws.

As a scrum-half, Bradley might have been underrated by some commentators, but true followers of the game were always quick to recognise the qualities that made him an invaluable member of club, provincial, and national squads.

Michael Bradley on duty as Zebre coach. Picture: INPHO/Giuseppe Fama
Michael Bradley on duty as Zebre coach. Picture: INPHO/Giuseppe Fama

Bradley’s dedication, enthusiasm, and courage, allied to a range of skills, clearly show why he amassed 40 caps with Ireland.


Michael Bradley won 40 caps between 1984 and 1995.

Bradley played a big part in the Cork Con team that won the inaugural All-Ireland League in 1991.

He was on the Irish team that won the Triple Crown in 1985 and scored five tries for Ireland.

Michael was appointed coach of Connacht in 2003 but has also coached at Ireland (interim), Edinburgh, CSM Bucuresti and Zebre. 

Bradley, along with Paul Derham, coached the 1999 Cork Con AIL winning team.

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