Slaughtneil footballers relieved not to let the side down
SLAUGHTNEIL assistant manager John Joe Kearney admitted that the pressure of the double-treble pushed his team on, even if that pressure was unspoken.
The Slaughtneil footballers didn’t want to be the side that let down the chance of a once in a lifetime achievement – twice. But he needn’t have worried the defending champions never looked like letting yesterday’s Ulster Club SFC final against Cavan Gaels slip from their grasp.
Even the celebrations were muted and, with Nemo Rangers in their sights for the All-Ireland semi-final, Slaughtneil are aware they have bigger fish to fry. “I suppose it is fair to say that we were comfortable throughout the hour’s football, but there were periods we were a bit shaky too and they [Cavan Gaels] were keeping at it, so the ball under the bar was crucial and we kicked on from there,” said Kearney.
“But fair play to them, they kept at it for the full 63 minutes, right ’til the end and I suppose they were here today to win an Ulster final for a Cavan team while we were looking for the double-treble. “There wasn’t much chat about it, but it put ourselves under a wee bit of pressure as the hurlers and the camogs had done it, so it was good to get over the line and it was a good enjoyable game of football.
“They didn’t want to be the team that would let that go and, at the end of the day, they went out and did that job.” Cavan looked in trouble in the opening half but improved in the second period, by which stage the Derry men had the game in the bag. Cavan Gaels manager Jason O’Reilly was proud of how his team acquitted themselves and gave a strong endorsement that Slaughtneil can go one better than last year.
“You are probably looking at the All-Ireland champions there if they keep their heads,” said O’Reilly. “They play football the way football should be played. We tried to match them and I thought at parts we probably matched them toe-for-toe and they took their opportunities and we didn’t. “But here, they are a great side. You can’t take it away from Slaughtneil. It’s in their blood.
“Three years ago the Gaels ran them to a point and they pushed on and hopefully we will push on from here. We had a good learning experience today and we are a young team.”
Slaughtneil were awesome, dominating throughout, and were slick in attack and composed in front of the posts. It was clear that this Ulster championship win was simply a means to an end. There wasn’t the euphoria you’d expect at the final whistle. The cup was carried down to the players as they didn’t even feel the need to walk up the steps. That is not to disparage the competition. It simply shows how focused the Derry men are on getting to another All-Ireland final. “Well, in a sense I suppose they have got that used to winning – it has gone that way,” said Kearney.
“[After] the first two Derry championships that we won, you’ll notice in the last couple the crowd that goes back to the hall has tailed off. But there is great support in the area and there is a great buzz.
“Slaughtneil is talked about now; if a stranger says he is from somewhere near Maghera, he is liable to be asked if he is from a place called Slaughtneil. It has been put it on the map now, no two ways about it.”
With Nemo Rangers next in line, Kearney says there is more to come from his team. “We went out there today without three of our key forwards that would have been playing (Paul Bradley, Meehaul McGrath and Cormac O’Doherty).
“The men that came in came in and did a job just like those men might have done if they had have been on.” No doubt there’s a party still continuing Slaughtneil’s clubhouse, but this football team are focused on going all the way.