Dunloy are up for 'massive challenge' against Slaughtneil insists O'Kane
ONE extremely interested guest at Slaughtneil’s recent semi-final victory over Down champions Portaferry was Dunloy boss Gregory O’Kane.
His Antrim side had already booked their spot in the Ulster final, so O’Kane headed to Corrigan Park to eye up his potential opponents. What O’Kane witnessed wasn’t unexpected but just another insight into what this Slaughtneil side can offer when in full flow.
“There were times that day when they probably looked unplayable,” recalled O’Kane, who was part of the only Dunloy team to defeat their Derry foes, scoring four points in that clash, back in 2000. “Their strength in depth all over the pitch, their use of the ball, they definitely were on a level that will be hard to deal with.
“Even their panel, their strength in depth is probably an area where they’ve come up short in the past, where they seemed this year to have worked on it. They started three young lads, (Ruairi) Ó’Mianáin looks a very good player, he’s come through all the underage structures and he’s starting to show that promise.
“To bring on players of the quality of Gerard Bradley and people like that (Jerome McGuigan also hit the net after coming off the bench), it shows the strength in depth they have. On the day at times, they definitely looked unplayable.
“They have the advantage, Portaferry was a semi-final, and they (Slaughtneil) completely dominated every section of the pitch. The more the game went on, the more dominant they became so it definitely is an advantage.”
O’Kane insists that the recent defeats his side have experienced against Michael McShane’s Slaughtneil are in the past and Dunloy will only be concentrating on this Sunday.
“The one thing is, you can never play those games again. The only thing we’re in control of, the only thing we can really play is the game in front of us on Sunday and that’s the only one we’re concentrating on. We’re looking forward to the challenge on Sunday.
“Those games are gone, and everybody knows who won the games so the only game we can play is the one on Sunday and that’s all we’re trying to be, is as good as we can be.
“Slaughtneil have been dominating Ulster, that’s the reality. They are the benchmark and they’ve set the standard very, very high and that’s the level we’re always striving to get to every year and this year’s no different.
“The Antrim championship, we were delighted to win it. It’s a fantastic and a hard championship to win, there’s no championship easy won and now we’re on to a new competition which is Ulster and we’re really looking forward to what comes up on Sunday. Slaughtneil are the benchmark, and we’ll certainly know where we’re at on Sunday.”
Dunloy carry a few injury concerns into the weekends clash, with Chrissy McMahon, their county final goal scorer, set to miss out.
“We’ve a few niggles, Decky (Smyth) is fully recovered now, and Chrissy has picked up a knock in the football obviously so Chrissy will be gone, he’s injured. But thank God the rest are fit and healthy and ready to go.
“Woody’s (Conor McKinley) not back yet, he’s still rehabbing. He probably ran out of time; two more weeks probably would have made a huge difference to him, but we are where we are and we’re happy enough where we’re at.
“We’re a young team, we’re always developing, we’re always learning and that’s the challenge for us. It’s a massive challenge on Sunday and that’s one that we’re looking forward to at the same time.”