GAA Football

Moran future with Slaughtneil uncertain

In the four years since they took over in Slaughtneil, Mickey Moran and John Joe Kearney have gathered up all four Oak Leaf titles, three Ulsters and been to two All-Ireland finals. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

SLAUGHTNEIL assistant John Joe Kearney says it's too early to know whether Mickey Moran will stay at the helm following the club's galling All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Nemo Rangers.

Moran has had an extraordinarily successful tenure with the Emmet's since taking over at the start of the 2014 season.

It had been a decade since they had won their one and only Derry SFC under John Brennan, but in the four years since then they have gathered up all four Oak Leaf titles, three Ulsters and been to two All-Ireland finals, albeit losing both.

Moran had been expected to make 2016 his final season in charge but their run to the St Patrick's Day decider with Dr Crokes left them just three weeks out from the start of 2017 campaign, for which he agreed to stay on.

And despite a similar scenario now, where there are just 39 days between the loss to Nemo and the first round of Derry club league fixtures, it seems increasingly possible that Moran will call an end to his reign.

Speaking pitchside in Portlaoise on Saturday, Kearney said: “It's too early to think about that, although next year's not far away. We'll see what happens.

“It's been a long, successful trip for us, just a pity it ended up the way it did today. That happens in football, you just have to pick yourself up and come back.”

There were no complaints from the Slaughtneil camp after the defeat. They had been 0-7 to 0-4 ahead at the interval having looked vastly superior in the opening 30 minutes, but once Nemo Rangers built a head of steam with a brilliant third quarter, the Derry champions were swimming against the tide.

It was Slaughtneil who were happier to get it to extra-time after coming from four points down but the legs gave out completely in the extra 20 minutes as Nemo hit seven unanswered points in the first period to take an unassailable lead.

The Cork side deserved a win that returns them to an All-Ireland final for the first time in 10 years, and the 12th time overall.

Slaughtneil's preparations had been hindered by trying to get pitches in the cold weather, a problem that didn't affect Nemo Rangers in the same way due to the quality of indoor and outdoor facilities at their Trabeg training centre, which boasts four full-size playing pitches, and four smaller all-weather astro pitches.

After the defeat, Kearney reiterated his call for the competition to be brought inside the calendar year rather than spread into the early months of the following year.

“They're a young enough side but it's tough going. They've been a credit to themselves and the club over the past four years, particularly the fact they've been successful in both codes.

“It's very hard to maintain. They haven't had much of a social life because of it either. They'll have regrets that they didn't get to an All-Ireland final but they did very well to get here. They had a tough battle the whole way through Ulster.

“Two things that hindered us, one of them was getting enough challenge games. A couple of games were all we got.

“We also had great difficulty in getting grass pitches to train on and quite a bit of it had to be done inside. The preparations weren't the best but we're not making any excuses; that's just the way it was.

“It's part of the way the competition is set up and I still think it should be played in the calendar year. I suppose that's the way they're shaping things.

“If you finish up in November and you're not out again until February 24 the following year, it's a long layoff. It's been the same for Nemo.”

Meanwhile, the GAA has confirmed that the All-Ireland club football final will take place first this year on March 17, with Corofin and Nemo Rangers throwing in at 2pm.

Cuala's attempt to retain the hurling title against Na Piarsaigh is at 3.45pm, though the Croke Park attendance could take a hit as the games clash with Ireland's potential tilt at rugby's Grand Slam against England, which kicks off at 2.45pm.

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