Michael McShane: Painful memories inspired Slaughtneil triumph
Robert Emmet’s, Slaughtneil (Derry) 2-14 Loughgiel Shamrocks (Antrim) 1-13
THE painful memory of the scenes of devastation inside the Slaughtneil changing room after last year’s final provided the inspiration for yesterday’s historic victory over Loughgiel in Armagh.
After knocking on the Ulster Club door in recent years, Slaughtneil finally smashed through it with a power-packed display to become the first Derry club to get their hands on the Four Seasons Cup.
Having previously fallen short in provincial deciders against Loughgiel in 2013 and Cushendall last year, they weren’t about to stand by and watch as an unwanted treble was completed.
Instead, they tore into the 2012 All-Ireland Club champions from the first ball, leaving the Shamrocks in a spin.
That lightning fast start was essential, said Slaughtneil boss Michael McShane, especially considering they were caught on the hop by the Ruairi Ogs last year.
“After 15 minutes we had two points,” he recalled.
“Today we were determined that wasn’t going to happen, we were going to start with a real whirlwind and we did that.
“That gave us a platform to drive on, but sometimes you have to lose before you win and last year we stood in the changing room with scenes of heartache and devastation and we just said to each other, there’s only one thing you can guarantee – if you don’t keep coming back, you’re going to lose.
“So dust yourselves down, come back next year, we’ll try and be a better team and see if that carries us over the line.
“We knew we were right up there with any team in Ulster, we were so close last year, and thank God it worked for us out there today.”
The level of intensity the Derry champions brought to yesterday’s decider was a joy to behold. Captain Chrissy McKaigue led by example and the rest followed suit, hunting in packs and attacking aggressively when in possession.
“That was the performance we knew we had to bring to the game today if we were going to come out on top,” said the Ballycastle man.
“Anything less than that, and we weren’t going to win the game because we were playing a top team in Loughgiel, a team who have shown serious hunger all year in their own championship.
“I was just happy when I looked at the clock and saw 29 minutes gone in the second half and we were four up. Only at that stage did I think we had it won.”
Slaughtneil’s performance was a fitting tribute to the memory of club stalwart Thomas Cassidy, who died last week.
His three daughters represented the club in yesterday’s drawn camogie final, while sons Eanna and Sean helped the hurlers to the promised land.
And McShane admitted his players had “a wee bit of extra drive” going into yesterday’s showdown.
He said: “It was a very, very tough week for everybody involved with Slaughtneil.
“It was a credit to the Cassidy family, to all in the Slaughtneil club how they handled it – it was very, very dignified.
“There was just that wee bit of extra drive there today because we knew we wanted to do that for Thomas. We talked about how it would be the most fitting tribute to his memory if we were to come out on top and become Ulster champions, and the drive was to do that.”