GAA Football

Killyclogher management team plotting Slaughtneil's downfall in Ulster Club SFC

Killyclogher's Nathan Donnelly comes under pressure from Cargin's Martin Kane and Gerard McCann during the Ulster club quarter-final at Healy Park
Picture by Séamus Loughran 
Francis Mooney

KILLYCLOGHER'S management team have taken a forensic approach to analysis of Slaughtneil's slick system as they plot an upset in Sunday's Ulster Club SFC semi-final at the Athletic Grounds.

Meticulous preparation is essential to the approach the Tyrone champions will take to halting the Emmet's treble bid, with the south Derry club having already won the Ulster senior titles in camogie and hurling.

Such planning worked a treat in the first round at Healy Park, where the St Mary's side had Cargin's number from a very early stage and, according to coach Mark O'Kane, that was all down to attention to detail.

"I suppose it's about getting to know Slaughtneil as well as we knew Cargin," O'Kane said.

"What we wanted to do as a management team was to know those guys as well as any team in Tyrone, and that's what we did. We put in hours in terms of getting the match-ups right, which is critical. You don't want to go in blind, without the knowledge of what the opposition are like."

Dominic Corrigan and his backroom team will be armed with a detailed profile of their opponents as they arrive at the Armagh city venue. They will also approach the tie in a relaxed mood, unburdened by pressure and the weight of expectation.

Killyclogher are happy to be seen as underdogs. After all, they have already exceeded targets for the season, adding a first every provincial win to a first county title in 13 years.

"The pressure's off us. We have done what we wanted to do in terms of winning a championship, we have won the first round of the Ulster Club," said O'Kane, who was a member of the team which won the club's only previous Tyrone SFC title in 2003 - they subsequently lost their provincial opener to Crossmaglen.

"Certainly, we will go at it and we'll go at it hard, so we'll be sharpening up on our fitness, sharpening up on our shooting, everything like that. We're underdogs and we don't mind that. We embrace that."

Killyclogher have injury problems. Midfielder Niall McFadden is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, while a back problem has prevented Dermot Carlin from starting any of the games to date and attacker Leo Meenan missed the in over Cargin due to a damaged finger.

"Leo Meenan has an injury with his finger, so that will hopefully improve. We're just hoping two week break might be enough to get Dermot back on and get some sort of involvement within the team. And Niall McFadden is gone for the season," he said.

"Hopefully, we can get some of our injured players back. Those are guys who can come back in and make a massive difference, whether it's for five or 10 minutes, or more, they can be critical in terms of a scenario like this.

"We used our bench, and men came on and made a very good contribution against Cargin. Tomás Flanagan came on and probed and ran at the guys and played a lot of good balls. Carl Donnelly was very solid and closed their man out. We have a strong bench, we're happy to use it and we hope it's going to get stronger."

The two-week break ahead of Sunday's eliminator is a luxury for the St Mary's. Due to a postponement of the Tyrone final replay, they had just a week to work through celebrations and recovery ahead of their provincial quarter-final.

This time, they will go in fresh, with ample time for a measured approach to the biggest game in the club's history: "There was always a bit of a concern because of the quick turnaround, how the boys were going to react," O'Kane added.

"They enjoyed themselves [after the county final] and rightfully so. It has been a long time coming for us as a club to get something like this. We all talked about the five years work that went into that and it was a culmination of five years work because we were going from a very low level to a high level."

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