GAA Football

Slaughtneil and Coleraine must be near sick of other

Slaughtneil and Eoghan Rua will meet today for the eighth time in 11 years in championship football. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Derry SFC:

SLAUGHTNEIL and Coleraine had never much bothered with each other prior to their first ever senior championship meeting in 2009.

Since then, they’ve near been sickened with the sight of other.

This afternoon’s meeting in Greenlough will be the sides’ eighth championship meeting in those eleven years, though the destination of the John McLaughlin for the winter will not pivot on this meeting the way it has previously.

All seven previous meetings have had huge significance, from that first day of the hoops and hollers. There hasn’t once been more than a kick of a ball between them.

The red and white hoops that Slaughtneil wore that day in 2009 created a memorable landscape, and the voices of the small handful of hollering Eoghan Rua fans billowing up into the Dungiven air at the end was almost surreal.

It was, in essence, the day that marked Coleraine’s arrival. Slaughtneil had been county finalists the previous year and a serious contender each season since their first success in 2004.

Sean McGoldrick’s team had only just arrived in senior football the year before. Eleven of the 16 players they used that day are still chugging along, underlining the once-in-a-generational nature of this team.

Nine years on they were the side that broke the team that looked destined never to be broken. Slaughtneil had won three Ulsters in four years and were on course for the first ever five-in-a-row in Derry football, but Liam McGoldrick’s late winner prised Coleraine into the 2018 final after two gritty encounters.

There they would win their second title of the decade, and a replay victory over Slaughtneil had played a significant part in the first too.

They played the first day in a colour clash after both teams were meant to change, only for Coleraine’s jerseys not to arrive on time. When Slaughtneil saw them come out in their maroon, they took the view that they wouldn’t bow and so changed back into their own first-choice strip too.

It was sorted out for the replay and Eoghan Rua captain Richard Carey, who would go on to net in the final as well, scored the famous last-minute screamer into the clubhouse end at Glenullin to win a game they seemed to have lost.

Yet if it seems like something of a hex, that’s unfair on Slaughtneil. Of the seven championship meetings, Coleraine have won three, Slaughtneil have won two and they’ve drawn the others.

And when it came to the biggest of days, it was the Emmet’s who prevailed when Sé McGuigan’s fisted goal allowed them to crawl edgily to what was then a second straight county title.

The latter part of a decade that was initially Ballinderry’s has belonged to Slaughtneil, but if there is one team they have not enjoyed playing in the last 11 years, it’s Eoghan Rua.

The north coast men are particularly threadbare at present though, with several key players including Declan Mullan, Ruairi Mooney and goalkeeper Ryan McGeough missing last weekend’s win over Lavey, in which Barry McGoldrick was sent off and will miss the remaining group games.

Liam McGoldrick also stood in nets and is nursing a knock, all of which comfortably outweighs even a loss of the magnitude of Karl McKaigue, which will test Slaughtneil’s defensive resources as the summer rolls on.

Perhaps a new rivalry will emerge in the coming years. Magherafelt and Glen will move to stage two in Bellaghy this evening. In normal times, we’d be looking at a good half of the 10,000 that came to watch their novel county final last year, but the live stream on DerryGAA.ie will have to do for all but the lucky 300-odd.

Glen may need the win more to prove it to themselves that they can overcome the massed defence that stifled them so effectively in that final. The Watties have become used to finding a way over psychological hurdles and could convince themselves victory tonight would be another.

The fixture list offers little else to salivate on, with the meeting of Dungiven and Ballinascreen the only other game that really jumps off the page.

There’s never been a pile of love lost between the two and relatively. ‘Screen were handy winners over Claudy last weekend, while Dungiven are relatively buoyed by a spirited performance against Swatragh with such a youthful and inexperienced team last week.

Elsewhere, The Loup and Newbridge are near neighbours who won’t lack motivation against each other, with Paddy Bradley in the former’s dugout having spent the last two years with the latter.

Derry SFC

Saturday

Greenlough, 2pm: Slaughtneil v Eoghan Rua

Claudy, 4pm: Claudy v Swatragh

Bellaghy, 6.30pm: Magherafelt v Glen

Sunday

Swatragh, 2pm: Lavey v Kilrea

Bellaghy, 4pm: Bellaghy v Foreglen

The Loup, 4pm: The Loup v Newbridge

Dungiven, 4pm: Dungiven v Ballinascreen

Glen, 6.30pm: Ballinderry v Banagher

Derry IFC

Saturday

Ballymaguigan, 4pm: Ballymaguigan v Castledawson

Sunday

Glenullin, 4pm: Glenullin v Limavady

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