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Achievement is 'way beyond our dreams' says Slaughtneil stalwart Ní Chaiside

Slaughtneil kid Frankie McGrath roars with delight as his mum Clare McGrath (7) lifts him in the air as they wait during the cup presentation following Slaughtneil's six in a row Ulster Camogie Senior Club Championship wins after they beat Loughgiel in the final played at Lavey in Co-Derry on Saturday. Picture Margaret McLaughlin 15-1-2022.
SEAMAS McALEENAN

AOIFE NÍ CHAISIDE is one of just eight players remaining from the Slaughtneil team that won their first Ulster title with a replay victory over Loughgiel 2016.

She was captain of that breakthrough side that went on to claim the first of three successive All-Ireland titles.

On Saturday she picked up the Player of the Match award after helping the Derry club to a record sixth successive provincial crown, surpassing the achievements of Belfast clubs Deirdre (1964-68) and Rossa (2004-08).

“I wasn’t aware that we were on course for a record. I know what we have done is phenomenal and way beyond our dreams when we started out in 2016. But when you are playing these games, you actually cannot see any further than the game you are involved in," Ní Chaiside said.

“The managers told us beforehand that it is a privilege to play in an Ulster final. You don’t know whether you will get another chance to play in one. So you have to make it count when you are in one.

“We could easily have focused on the hunger that is inside us to get back into an All-Ireland semi-final and do better than we did before Christmas. But you just can’t do that. If we did, we wouldn’t have beaten Loughgiel today. Yes, the end product is that we are where we want to be. But take your eye off the ball and you can pay for it.”

One of the enjoyable aspects of playing with the present team has been the progress of younger players who have come into the team.

“Yes indeed, players like Cliodhna (Ní Mhianáin), Olivia (Rafferty), they are not just stepping up to the plate, but actually have the confidence now to take players on, take their own scores. That is fantastic to see and it gives us older players a real lift.”

The centre-half back of previous years has been converted over the past 12 months into something like a midfielder coming from deep to run at defences.

Where exactly is she now playing?

“All over the place really,” she says with more than a hint of humour.

“You are set up for certain situations, scenarios and most of the time things seem to work out. It depends how the match is going at times. We have a number of versatile players and we are very lucky to have players that can fit into different styles of play and can read what is happening as a game develops.

“At All-Ireland level you have to be able to defend as well as attack in every position and we work a lot on that. And it helps if you can change your game from time to time and surprise other teams.”

Ní Chaiside admits she is pleased to get back into the All-Ireland series, but feels that the team will have to step up a gear for the showdown with Sarsfield’s.

“There were periods during that game that we were just not playing well enough. You can say that is because Loughgiel are as good as they are and put us under pressure.

“We want to get back in the All-Ireland because we feel we did not do ourselves justice against Oulart – and that is not taking anything away from Oulart who are a very good side. For example we need to start games better than we did today or against Oulart.

“We have five weeks to get things right for the Sarsfield’s game.”

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