John Joe Kearney glad to avoid slip-up and book St Vincent's semi-final clash
Quarter-final: St Kiernan’s (London) 0-5 Robert Emmet’s, Slaughtneil (Derry) 2-11
THERE was barely even a whimper of celebration when Rory Hickey’s final whistle sounded.
Job done – danger averted.
After a year of breaking records Slaughtneil had avoided becoming the first team from Ireland to lose an All-Ireland Club SFC quarterfinal.
Still in their playing gear, some the Slaughtneil squad watched in the clubhouse on television as St Vincent’s became Leinster champions.
A showdown with Diarmuid Connolly and co is for another day and Slaughtneil assistant manager John Joe Kearney was happy to get over an indifferent start in west London yesterday.
“A banana skin it certainly was but once we got over the first 10 minutes we settled down and got that first goal – things just went on from there,” said Kearney.
“We played the sort of football we are capable of playing – controlled, steady and kicking over scores when things started to open up.”
St Kiernan’s had skilful enough personnel but Slaughtneil’s superior fitness gave them the ability to take control of the game.
When St Kiernan’s lost James Moran to a second booking the result was never in question.
“We felt at half-time that their legs were starting to suffer. Paudie Cassidy – the game of football he played today was remarkable,” said Kearney.
“He made the first goal with a run from deep, didn’t panic, went on and on, laid off a good ball. That kick started us really and that was us on the road to winning the match.”
Behind Cassidy was a defence that has now kept eight consecutive clean sheets. It is about so much more that defending – there is a licence to bomb forward.
“Any one of the back six can become a forward and if they do, other players in the team will drop back and cover,” said Kearney.
“That’s the way it rotates but those boys have no qualms about going forward and as a general rule they don’t give anything away.
“Antoin [McMullan] will be really happy to keep clean sheets. The men in front of him help that as well but he has contributed with two very important saves against Killyclogher and Kilcoo.”
A dejected St Kiernan’s boss Chris Byrne saw the 10 minutes before half time as the deciding period in the game.
“We said that the first 10 or 15 minutes were going to be crucial as to how we set ourselves up and we did exactly that. “Then they upped the pace like they did in the Ulster final against Kilcoo and in that 10-minute spell we just couldn’t live with them.”
The goals didn’t help their cause and Meehaul McGrath’s goal was the sucker punch.
“There was a sloppy goal and then the second one put us out of the game. The goalie made a bit of a mix-up and it was uphill from then on. The game was more or less over and at half-time we had to show a bit of pride in ourselves and I hope we did a little bit of that.”
While Slaughtneil’s knowledge of their London opponents was sketchy, Byrne admitted to having all his bases covered.
“We were at the Ulster final ourselves and we knew what we were up against. We were at home that weekend and played Tuam Stars in Galway, myself and the selectors went on to Armagh to the game.
“We tried to bring one of our defenders up on Christy McKaigue with Danny Ryan going to centreforward but we didn’t get to the pace of the game.
“We had to stop the full-back [Brendan Rogers] carrying the ball and different things like that. Patsy Bradley was someone we tried to target but then [Padraig] Cassidy caused us miles and miles of trouble.
“They are a good team and they kicked on in the last 10 minutes of the first half – that’s where the game was won and lost.”