Mickey Moran's virtues driving Slaughtneil forward - Brendan Rogers
WITH Killyclogher desperately striving to get back into last Sunday’s Ulster Club semi-final against Slaughtneil, the Tyrone side had a free just outside the Emmet’s 45.
Conall McCann waited for the run of Simon O’Neill and dropped the ball into his path, only for the St. Mary’s forward to spill it and allow Keelan Feeney to nip in and take the ball.
Between Feeney winning the ball and it dropping over the crossbar at the other end, Slaughtneil played 12 passes between eight different players. They worked the ball left, then right, before Brendan Rogers provided the burst out of defence.
Supported by Karl McKaigue out wide, they got the ball to the superb Padraig Cassidy who won a free. By the time Paul Bradley drove another stake through the heart of Dominic Corrigan’s side from the dead ball, some 117 seconds had elapsed.
Their final score of the afternoon saw nine players touch the ball after Paul McNeill pounced on a loose pass, finishing up with Ronan Bradley firing over from the sideline 48 seconds later.
It was the kind of vintage that Mickey Moran would have dreamed of fermenting when he took command of a young crop of players back in the winter of 2013: “He teaches a calmness about the team,” said Emmet’s defender Brendan Rogers - who had a hand in both the aforementioned scores - about his manager’s influence.
“I know which play you’re talking about and it sort of brings me back to [the Derry championship game against] Ballinascreen last year, where we had something like 40 passes.
“That’s what it takes sometimes. You can’t rush a score. The boys were very composed up there in the forward line to wait and wait and wait. Mickey has really drilled that in at training. Never rush things and they’ll always come. Today was another one of those days where we played the way we train.”
Moran has bought into the modern sciences that benefit his players. There’s no way that the dual core at the heart of their success would have survived this long if he hadn’t.
But his steadfast belief in the key principle of doing everything at training with the ball has been of equal importance: “Mickey Moran’s style since he came into the club hasn’t been running around the perimeter of the pitch 20 times,” said assistant boss John Joe Kearney.
“It’s doing drills with a football in your hand. It’s doing drills but when you’re doing them with a football in your hand, you don’t really notice it. That’s the difference.”
The man from neighbouring Maghera has led them back to a second Ulster club final in three years, where they will face Kilcoo, which will almost certainly be back at the Athletic Grounds.
The Ulster CCC will meet on Tuesday night to make a final decision on the venues for the senior, intermediate and junior finals. Armagh is a venue that’s almost become a home-from-home for Slaughtneil. It’s where they won their maiden provincial football title against Omagh two years ago, and their first ever Ulster hurling title last month against Loughgiel.
The Down champions will make the journey have endured a wealth of near misses in their bid to join Bryansford and Burren on the provincial roll of honour: “I think at this stage, the last four, any team in the final would have been a hard game,” said Rogers after Slaughtneil’s victory.
“Kilcoo have been in around there before and we know it’ll be a massive, massive game. We’ll need to play twice as well as that today.”