Three in-a-row winners Slaughtneil dominate Derry Allstars for 2016
Slaughtneil retained their M&L Contracts Derry SFC title with plenty to spare, seeing off Loup in the final. Séamus Mullan finds room for nine Allstar spots from the Emmet’s club in his Derry SFC Allstars pick...
1 THOMAS MALLON
All season, Thomas Mallon has been directing operations, with his pin-point kick-outs that invariably found an unmarked colleague, that accuracy central to their run from the preliminary round win over Glenullin to the defeat of Ballinascreen in the semi-final.
He was also a regular scorer from '45s. Indeed, one such kick squirmed all the way to the net against Ballinascreen. He may have hesitated a fraction too long before challenging on the first Slaughtneil goal, but he still had a fine championship.
2 FRANCIS McELDOWNEY
What a remarkable achievement the corner-back registered last Sunday at Celtic Park, when he captained his club to senior championship success for the third final in-a-row. The 35-year-old defender has maintained a great level of consistency throughout the championship campaign, his energy levels comparable to many of his younger colleagues.
He played every minute of the four games. His vast experience allowed him to spot danger at an early stage.
3. BRENDAN ROGERS
The inter-county defender has been a rock at the heart of the Slaughtneil team all season, his block on Anthony McGurk denying the Lavey player a goal in the final seconds of the opening round of the championship, when three points separated the sides.
Time and again over the four championship games, he carried the ball out of defence to set up attacking moves, a player of great skill and composure under pressure.
4. KARL McKAIGUE
Few would argue with the assertion that he has been the outstanding defender of the senior championship, maybe even the player of the championship. In the opening game against Lavey, he put the clampers on Niall Toner when the outcome was in the melting pot and then repeated the feat in the next match against Newbridge dangerman Peter McGrogan.
Another stellar performance followed against Ballinderry in the semi-final. He was assured and composed against Loup.
5. PADDY CONEY
The teenager announced his arrival on the football stage as a member of the Derry minor team who won the Ulster title and he has enhanced his burgeoning reputation at senor level this season as Loup progressed to the county final.
In the opening game against Glenullin, he was outstanding as he scored three points from wing-back and showed great maturity as the spare man when Ballinascreen were reduced to 14 players.
A fine championship season.
6. CHRISTOPHER McKAIGUE
From the opening game, where his defensive skills were to the fore as Slaughtneil held off the serious challenge of Lavey, through a barnstorming attacking performance against Newbridge and setting up Shane McGuigan for the first goal against Ballinderry, he was pivotal to Slaughtneil’s run to the final.
All through the campaign, he exuded an air of calmness and composure, ensuring there was rarely any panic in the defensive ranks.
7. GARETH McKINLESS
He may have started all three championship games with the number three on his back, but he has been given the wing-back slot because he deserves to be included in the championship 15.
In all three games, he has been the Shamrock’s defensive lynchpin, firefighting wherever danger threatened and driving forward in support of the Ballinderry forwards. He played a key defensive role when Ballinderry fought back superbly after Slaughtneil had opened the game with an unanswered 1-2.
8. PATSY BRADLEY
It was perhaps right and fitting that the final score of last Sunday’s one-sided decider should be taken by Slaughtneil talisman Patsy Bradley. Down through the years, he has been the heartbeat of the Slaughtneil team, his very presence a rallying call for every player.
He has been blighted by injury in recent times, but his fitness and form have improved match-on-match this year and he dovetailed perfectly with Pádraig Cassidy to provide the midfield control.
9. PÁDRAIG CASSIDY
Each year, the journalists covering the Derry Senior Football Championship final are tasked with selecting the player of the match, which is quite often a contentious decision. However, from early in last Sunday’s final at Celtic Park, one player had a profound influence on the game with his dominance at Loup kick-outs, allowing Slaughtneil to build a match-wining lead.
By the final whistle, the choice was unanimous, the Slaughtneil number nine continuing a fine championship run with an outstanding display.
10. SHANE McGUIGAN
The Slaughtneil wing-forward, a model of scoring consistency over four games, won the top scorer accolade with 2-15. In the opening game, he scored 0-6, from frees and open play in equal measure.
He landed 0-5 against Newbridge and 1-3 against Ballinderry. In the final, his fisted 12th minute goal brought his tally to 1-1 and put Slaughtneil in control. Two goals and eight points from open play and 0-8 from frees showed his importance to the Slaughtneil cause.
11. TERENCE O’BRIEN
He may have worn the number eight jersey, but the fleet-footed Loup player rarely confined himself to the middle sector, popping up all over the pitch in search of the ball. He was equally comfortable on the edge of the square, where his high-fielding ability gave Loup a strong presence.
His three points were pivotal in the 0-16 to 0-13 win over Glen. He landed a 60-metre free in the first-half against Slaughtneil, but his best efforts in the second-half were in vain.
12. SHANE MULGREW
Ballinascreen’s impressive run to the semi-final was hugely influenced by the industrious play and the accurate free-taking of the Tyrone native, who chalked up 1-13. He racked up 1-9 in the wins over Coleraine and Magherafelt.
Loup may have ended Ballinascreen’s run at the semi-final stage, but sharpshooter Mulgrew still scored four points for the second best individual return in the championship. A fine season.
13. CHRISTOPHER BRADLEY
‘Sammy’ started the championship campaign in impressive form and he needed to be as Lavey threatened to derail Slaughtneil’s three in-a-row title aspirations. He pointed four frees in a 0-5 haul, picking up a brace against Newbridge.
He grabbed four from open play against Ballinderry and brought his championship tally to 0-12 when he stroked over a ‘45 in the second-half against Loup.
14. SÉ McGUIGAN
Twelve months ago, it was Sé McGuigan’s fisted effort that clinched Slaughtneil’s back-to-back titles. Last Sunday, he took a pass from Pádraig Cassidy in the 44th minute and slotted the ball to the net for 2-8 to 0-5.
It was his second goal of the championship and game over. His first was at a crucial stage of the Ballinderry game. A fine ball winner, he has had an excellent championship.
15. CONLEITH GILLIGAN
He may be in the twilight years of an illustrious career, but ‘Deets’ still played a significant role in helping the Shamrocks reach the semi-final, his scoring prowess shining bright as he scored 14 points in three games.
In the win over Banagher, he rolled back the years with a virtuoso display of scoring. His 0-8 tally included 5 frees and an outrageous point from an acute angle on the sideline.