Slaughtneil assistant John Joe Kearney pleased to avoid Corofin rematch

Slaughtneil were well beaten by Corofin in the 2015 All-Ireland final but avoided a rematch courtesy of Dr Crokes' win over the Connacht in February.
Cahair O'Kane

SLAUGHTNEIL assistant manager John Joe Kearney admits that it’s probably better for his side that Corofin were taken out of the path to a potential All-Ireland club football title.

The Galway and Connacht champions came into the semi-final as joint-favourites along with St Vincent’s to claim the Andy Merrigan Cup on St Patrick’s Day, but neither made it as far as the final.

Instead, having seen Slaughtneil overcome the Dublin giants in the first game, Pat O’Shea’s men turned in a brilliant display to breeze past the 2015 All-Ireland champions.

They had won that crown at the expense of the Derry side with a polished and ruthless performance, and for a brief time after their own semi-final Slaughtneil were contemplating thoughts of a rematch.

But the Emmet’s will instead face the famous black and amber of the Kerry side and Kearney admits that it probably isn’t a bad thing for the preparation of his and Mickey Moran’s side.

“Yes and no,” he said when asked if he’d have liked to have met the Connacht men again.

“You might have thought too much about Corofin and said to ourselves about not doing well against them the last day, and got yourself mentally prepared in the wrong way.

“You could have made it more or less a grudge match rather than going out to play a game of football. It’s probably better that they’re out of the equation.”

When Slaughtneil won their first Derry title in 10 years, went on to claim an unexpected Ulster and then beat Austin Stacks to reach the All-Ireland final, the 2014/15 campaign was being written into the annals as their year.

In the public’s perceived wisdom it was generally regarded that they would do well to return to Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day, but they’ve long since confounded any criticism.

With their camogs enjoying a magnificent first national title on Sunday and their hurlers having become the first Derry side ever to win Ulster, the magnitude of their achievements has been on an unending upward climb.

Eleven of the team that began against Corofin two years are likely to start next Friday, with four fresh faces adding an extra spring that they hope will see them right on the huge Croke Park surface.

“There’s four young lads have come in, Shane McGuigan, Keelan Feeney, Padraig Cassidy and Meehaul McGrath, which gives us those younger legs. But if you take those four out, you still have 11 that were there at the time.

“I’ve said that watching our games, the team’s matured.

“We’re settled on the ball, our ball retention’s good, we don’t panic. We practise it night in, night out on the training field so that we’re confident on the ball and the handling’s good.

“Watching Dr Crokes, they play a similar style of game, or they did that day [against Corofin]. That’s the only vision I’ve had of them.

“25 minutes gone there was only a point in it and then Crokes got a goal out of nothing, a fluke. All of a sudden, Corofin were down by 1-2 and they never recovered.”

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