GAA Football

Shooting practice for Slaughtneil who trash Derrygonnelly

Slaughtneil began the defence of their Ulster crown with a 4-13 to 1-4 rout of Fermanagh Champions Derrygonnelly

Ulster Club Senior Football Championship preliminary round: Slaughtneil Emmet’s (Derry) 4-13 Derrygonnelly Harps (Fermanagh) 1-4 

SLAUGHTNEIL’S preparation for this opening defence of their Ulster crown was largely limited to shooting practice, but that session was obviously a productive one.

Their own dual successes, having progressed to next weekend’s Ulster Club SHC final, are giving the Emmet’s a tougher time than Derrygonnelly ultimately did yesterday, although admittedly the scoreline was tight until close to half-time.

This was the 13th game in 11 weeks for Slaughtneil’s dual players, who include Chrissy McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Cormac O’Doherty, and Paul McNeill, but they were still very slick and sharp when they got going.

Assistant manager John Joe Kearney acknowledged that preparation had been minimal for the footballers, who only met up again last Wednesday, saying: “We had done nothing, the hurlers probably did. We did very little this week, a bit of warm-up and bit of shooting practice on Friday night, and that was basically it.”

Perhaps that showed in the first half, which Kearney pointed out was a tight affair, a fact almost forgotten by the 18-point margin that separated the sides:

“It ran out in the end a very comfortable victory but earlier on in the game we were finding it tough enough. In the second half we pulled away and I suppose the goals really made the difference…

“It was 1-3 to 2-3 at one stage, coming near half-time, but we were up six at half-time, which was comfortable. They played pretty hard for a long while, it’s just that we had that wee bit more experience to win the game.”

There was much more between the teams than that, in truth, although Kearney was right to remind reporters that the first half was closely contested.

That was somewhat surprising, given that the Derry champions’ first two scores, inside seven minutes, were both goals, from Cormac O’Doherty and Christopher ‘Sammy’ Bradley.

Yet although the Harps opened their own account with an opportunist strike from a free by Paul Ward, the sides soon showed a huge contrast in finishing efficiency.

Derrygonnelly recorded seven wides, four of them from skipper Ryan Jones, before Slaughtneil wasted an opportunity of their own.

“They kicked a few wides going for points,” recalled Kearney. “They took their goal well, they were keyed in whereas our boys were sleeping, and that brought them back into the game.”

However, even after Padraig Kelly did eventually miss the target, in the 27th minute, Slaughtneil extended their lead by the break, as ‘Sammy’ Bradley snapped up his second goal on the stroke of half-time, to make it 3-3 to 1-3.

That difference in the taking of chances became even more marked on the scoreboard in the second period, although perhaps the gulf became more about the making of opportunities. Derrygonnelly only struck three second half wides, although they did have a couple of chances on goal too.

Even with those unconverted opportunities, the number of goals scored was far from typical of Ulster club fare, or of Slaughtneil, although the scoreline had been, at least until injury time. The second half, though, was extraordinarily one-sided.

Derrygonnelly had only triumphed in the delayed Fermanagh final last weekend, shocking recent kingpins Roslea after a devastating death in the Harps club, and their schedule seemed to catch up with them.

The Harps managed just a solitary score in the second half, and that a free converted by Leigh Jones in the 40th minute.

Slaughtneil were still eight points ahead at that stage, 3-6 to 1-4, but they added eight more scores without reply, 1-7, to more than double their lead.

The start of that unanswered tally came when Slaughtneil sub Sean Cassidy – another hurler – caught a palmed effort from Harps full-forward Stephen McGullion near his own goal-line. The counter-attack ended with a ‘Sammy’ Bradley score.

The Fermanagh side weren’t helped by Conal Jones getting himself sent off with 10 minutes remaining, earning a second yellow card after a clash with Chrissy McKaigue.

Slaughtneil continued to break at speed and their superiority was such that wing-back Karl McKaigue powered forward to crash in a superb 53rd minute goal after a ‘1-2’ with Se McGuigan, while hardworking midfielder Patsy Bradley also contributed a rare, but terrific, point.

McGuigan himself pointed after another lightning counter-attack sparked by the impressive McNeill clearing a 55th minute effort on goal by sub Jonathan McGurn.

The Emmets’ desire for scores never let up, adding three more from the 59th minute onwards, and their hunger for silverware is insatiable.

The concern for the rest of Derry, and perhaps Ulster, is that the production line of talent keeps flowing, as Kearney happily stated:

“We added the Minor Championship [on Saturday]. That’s another [trophy], we had a comfortable win against Glen [Maghera], who were going for five-in-a-row.

“Glen have been ruling the roost at Minor level this last few years, and Slaughtneil have been the team that has been there or thereabouts with them, so we finally got one over on them. It was great for the people involved with our minors after years of having to take defeat.”

Slaughtneil seniors haven’t suffered any setbacks in a while and they now move on to face Monaghan winners Scotstown on the first of next month, with Kearney commenting: “They won comfortably enough, so that’ll be a tough game.

“We don’t know much about them, but they’re Monaghan county champions – Monaghan county football is not soft so I’m sure Monaghan club football will not be any different. We’ll just have to work with it as best we can, see how we go on the day.”

Preparation for the footballers may be limited in terms of time, but not so much in numbers, as Kearney revealed:

“A group of players will get together Wednesday night coming, although the hurlers will not be involved because they obviously have their final next weekend.

“That’s the way we are keeping it going. Even without the hurlers we still probably have a couple of dozen, so it makes training interesting enough.

That dual approach has been working very well so far; they won’t even need shooting practice on this showing.

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