GAA Football

Ulster champions Slaughtneil begin defence of Derry crown against Magherafelt

Kieran Kennedy, representing new sponsors O’Neill’s International Sportswear, and Henry Downey, Derry’s 1993 All-Ireland-winning captain, at the launch of this year’s county SFC at Owenbeg Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Andy Watters

ULSTER senior football club champions Slaughtneil will begin the defence of their Derry title against Division One pacesetters Magherafelt.

The Robert Emmet’s club are bidding for a record-breaking five in-a-row this year while Magherafelt haven’t won the John McLaughlin Cup since 1978. However, they did run Slaughtneil close in 2015 when the then defending champions needed a last-gasp free from Paul Bradley to force a replay which they won comfortably.

“We know what Magherafelt are like,” said Slaughtneil full-back Brendan Rodgers.

“We nearly got beat by them a couple of years ago so we know we don’t have an easy task. They’ve been very competitive in the league as well this year so we’re probably in the stiffer end of the draw this year.

“But that’s the way it is, it’s the championship and you have to get on with it. It’s always going to be competitive in Derry no matter who you get. We’ll just have to take it a game at a time once again.”

Elsewhere, 1993 All-Ireland winning team-mates Seamus Downey (Lavey) and Kieran McKeever (Dungiven) go head-to-head when their clubs meet and bitter rivals Kilrea and Ballinderry were also paired together.

Derry Allstar Henry Downey was at Owenbeg to make the draw last night along with Thomas Niblock and Kieran Kennedy, from sponsors O’Neills.

“Slaughtneil have been out in front over the last number of years and deservedly so,” said the 1993 Sam Maguire winner.

“The Derry championship is very competitive and there are no easy draws. Magherafelt and Slaughtneil is a big one, Magherafelt are going very well in the league, they’re making a lot of good noises so it will be interesting to see.

“Swatragh versus Glen is another local derby that will have its own tussles.”

Meanwhile, the draw for the intermediate championship paired parish rivals Banagher and Foreglen together. Banagher were relegated from senior level last year and the sides have been locked together in the league all this season.


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