Hurling and camogie

Slaughtneil boss Michael McShane heaps pressure on Dunloy ahead of Ulster SHC Final

Slaughtneil manager Michael McShane pictured with Chrissy McKaigue.
Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Pádraig Ó Meiscill

Ulster Club SHC final

SLAUGHTNEIL manager Michael McShane has heaped the pressure on opponents Dunloy ahead of Sunday’s Ulster final showdown in Newry.

Gregory O’Kane’s Antrim men are going into the weekend’s decider heavily fancied to take their first provincial crown in a decade, with Slaughtneil having gone somewhat under the radar with a low profile semi-final win over Middletown.

“We’re going into the game feeling no pressure at all,” said McShane.

“We’re underdogs for a change, we’re always the hot favourites in Derry and we were probably the hot favourites going into the semi-final, but bookies are never far wrong and Dunloy are hot favourites going into this, so we’re going in with the pressure off us.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge ahead. We feel that we’ve prepared very well, we’ve had five weeks concentrating on just hurling after the footballers went out of the [Derry] championship.

“We’ve got the experience of winning two Ulster championships in the last three years. We’d a victory over Dunloy two years ago, so I think the pressure is all on Dunloy.”

That victory in the 2017 semi-final was in the midst of a glorious period for Slaughtneil hurling as they went on to win their second Ulster title in succession. McShane, however, was keen to stress the significance of the result for the north Antrim side.

“The Dunloy team in 2017 was the first one [from the club] that came out of Antrim that didn’t go on to win Ulster and I’m sure that they’ll not want that to be the same again,” the Ballycastle man added.

“They’ll not want to be the team that came out of Antrim two years out of three and didn’t win Ulster. They’ll be feeling a bit of pressure - for a lot of the Dunloy team, it’ll be their first Ulster final whereas some of our lads, between hurling and football, are going in to play their seventh or eighth Ulster final in the last four or five years.

“Our lads are in a nice position. We’ve done the hard work, we’ve done the hard yards over the last few months and we feel that we’re peaking at the right time.”

Slaughtneil have developed into an accomplished dual club in recent years and their senior panel has become accustomed to togging out in differing codes on a regular basis. With the footballers losing at the semi-final stage of the Derry championship this year, McShane has had the rare delight of having his charges all to himself in recent weeks.

“It’s a double edged sword really because, when we were playing football and hurling week-in and week-out, there was a great momentum built and we won the Ulster double in 2016-17,” the Ballycastle man added.

“We’d a good template for it. We knew it worked and the players were happy with the way it worked. The other side of that is, when the footballers were beat in the Derry championship, there’s no doubt the lads have been able to do more hurling. We’re able to go out and train harder, they’re only focused on one sport, they can train hard and rest in between which you probably weren’t able to do before.

“There’s obviously no doubt our preparations are better in terms of hurling but you do lose that momentum you get from winning week-in, week-out which we had in 2016-17, which was a great advantage to us as well.

“Had Slaughtneil won the Derry [football] championship, they’d have been playing Kilcoo last Sunday in Páirc Esler and then trying to come back this week and do a wee bit of hurling, a bit of recovery to go in and play an Ulster final.”

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Hurling and camogie