Slaughtneil hurlers ready to go hard at training over Christmas
THE new, earlier time-frame for the All-Ireland Club series may mean that “Christmas is cancelled for the Slaughtneil hurling team” but the Ulster champions’ boss is happy that they’ve done plenty of celebrating already.
The Emmet’s will face the Leinster winners – either reigning All-Ireland title-holders Ballyhale Shamrocks of Kilkenny or St Mullins of Carlow – on Saturday January 4 with the Croke Park Final set for January 19.
That move away from a St Patrick’s Day decider has met with some criticism but Slaughtneil manager Michael McShane feels that there are pros as well as cons to the new scenario:
“The date we’ve been given is January the 4th, so I guess Christmas is cancelled this year for the Slaughtneil hurling team,” he said with a laugh.
“But, look, there are advantages and disadvantages to it. The timing isn’t great, having heavy training going into Christmas. The organisation of challenge games is also a wee bit more difficult at that time of year.
“At the same time it’s not such a long wait from the Ulster Final to the All-Ireland semi-final. I think the last time there was something like three months between the games, and that was bit long, a bit elongated really.”
The victorious Slaughtneil squad are still recovering from their impressive provincial final victory over Antrim champs Dunloy earlier this month, when they won by 1-15 to 0-10.
That earned them a third Ulster title in four seasons, but a new situation ahead of their third All-Ireland semi-final appearance, having previously had to wait until February to take on Dublin's Cuala in 2017 and Na Piarsaigh of Limerick a year later.
“We’re taking a bit of a break at the moment, we’ll get together probably next week, and then you’re looking at six weeks of heavy training going into the All-Ireland semi-final,” said McShane, who expressed the hope that fitness levels would be better than for previous forays onto the national stage.
“It probably works out a wee bit better because the lads are coming back after only a couple of weeks’ break so they’re not losing too much of their fitness.
“They haven’t been able to eat too much and pile on the pounds, so they’ll be that bit sharper than when we would have taken a four- or five-week break before.”
The longer schedule of the Leinster championship means that Slaughtneil have been able to scout their potential opponents, with the semi-finals in the eastern province taking place last weekend:
“I got to watch the game on Sunday, between St Mullins and Rathdowney [of Laois], it was live on TV, and a couple of the members of the management were down to see both games at the weekend, Ballyhale as well.
“Now we’re planning as a management team to all go down and watch the Leinster Final [on Sunday December 1].”
At present Slaughtneil have no injury concerns, although they will still be without long-term injury victims Paul McNeill (collar bone) and Liam Cassidy (cruciate ligament) even if they make it to a first All-Ireland Final.
The trick now will be to avoid any problems over the Christmas and New Year period, particularly on dancefloors.
“That might not be easy,” admitted McShane, “but I’ll you what, we’ve done enough dancing and partying over the last week or so since the Ulster Final, so that’ll maybe do them until the end of January!”