Slaughtneil manager ‘delighted' to have defender Paul McNeill back

Slaughtneil manager Michael McShane and team against Lavey during the Derry Senior Hurling Championship match at Owenbeg on Saturday Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.
By Michael McMullan

SLAUGHTNEIL manager Michael McShane is ‘delighted’ to have defender Paul McNeill back in the fold after watching his side book their place in a ninth straight Derry SHC final with victory over Lavey at Owenbeg on Saturday.

McNeill picked an elbow injury in league action during the Emmet’s 1-20 to 1-14 defeat to Kevin Lynch’s in August.

McShane revealed that he left it up the player about making himself available for selection ahead of Saturday’s win over Lavey.

McNeill played at corner-back and prevented a Lavey goal, clearing the rebound off the line after goalkeeper Oisin O’Doherty made a save from Ryan Mulholland.

“I left the decision up to Paul and he said 'go with it'. He was very, very good and played really well,” McShane said.

“You wouldn't have thought he was a man that was out for nearly two months. He has been out seven weeks and to get him back in there, it solidifies our defence. He's a very understated player. He is very important to us and it is great to have him back.”

McShane now has McNeill and fellow defender Karl McKaigue available for the first time in the championship since Slaughtneil’s defeat to Ballycran in the heel of 2018.

Conor McAllister could be back in the selection mix for the final, but Seán Ó Caiside still awaits the outcome of a scan on a suspected cruciate ligament injury, seven years after missing out a season at minor level with a similar injury.

McShane is content to back in the final. After ‘getting the business done’ in the group stages, he was confident going into Saturday’s clash with Lavey.

“It was a good performance, in the first half especially I thought we were very, very good. We were very much on the mark to where we want to be,” said McShane who also led Lavey to the 2010 title and helped their camogs to an All-Ireland title a year earlier.

“We dropped off a bit in the second half, which is understandable. We are in the final, it'll be another battle with Kevin Lynch's and it's something to look forward to.

“I kinda thought that if we got back to the final that it would be Kevin Lynch's we'd be coming up against,” McShane added.

“I did fancy Banagher to put it up to them, which they did do. Banagher have improved, they are more organised and have a better structure about them than the last couple of years.”

The final is down for decision on Sunday, October 24 and a third meeting in the decider in as many seasons. The sides always met in the semi-final in 2018, with Slaughtneil getting out of Ballinascreen by the skin of their teeth by a point.

“We know each other inside out,” McShane stated.

“It will be a tough battle. That's one thing we know about Kevin Lynch's. It is the two best teams in the county playing each other and it makes for a good final, hopefully we come out on the right side of it, that's the most important thing.”

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