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Coleraine stand in way of Slaughtneil's dynasty building - The Irish News
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GAA Football

Coleraine stand in way of Slaughtneil's dynasty building

John Joe Kearney (left) has been full of praise for Slaughtneil boss Mickey Moran ahead of Sunday's Derry SFC decider with Coleraine
Cahair O'Kane

THIS is not just a football team that Slaughtneil are building. This is a dynasty.

For the second year running, they have reached the senior county final in football, hurling and camogie. The hurlers already have their back-to-back titles secured, while the camogs will face local rivals Swatragh at 12pm on Sunday, a few hours ahead of the footballers’ date with Coleraine at Celtic Park. By any standards, it is some recent record of achievement.

“It’s some going,” said Emmet's assistant manager John Joe Kearney, who forms part of the triumvirate with Mickey Moran and Paddy Flynn.

They have seen their team produce two very different performances aesthetically in the last two games, both of which were equally effective. The quarter-final win over Ballinascreen was a lesson in patience as they played keep-ball for a lot of the second half, edging a 0-6 to 0-3 win.

“That’s where Mickey [Moran]’s coaching has come in,” said Kearney of that win.

“If a team is playing ultra-defensive, you have to be very patient and try to work yourself into a position where you’re going to pick off a score and take it. That’s the basic mechanics of playing that sort of way.

“In previous years, teams would have been inclined to kick a lot of possession away and come back under pressure immediately. When you keep possession, that’s not happening.”

Five days later, Bellaghy came to Owenbeg with an expansive, man-for-man approach. Slaughtneil blitzed them in the first half, with goals from the irrepressible Cormac O’Doherty and Christopher Bradley laying the foundations for a 13-point win. However, Slaughtneil native Kearney doesn’t expect their forwards to be given anywhere near as much space by Coleraine on Sunday.

“The good thing about Sunday evening was that the players expressed themselves and played well," he said. 

"But we went into the game thinking that Bellaghy were a much-improved side from what we had played in the league. That was a great mentality to be going in with. Having said that, we got a good early start, with a couple of early goals that killed Bellaghy off. Coleraine will be a totally different kettle of fish, it’ll be going back to more like the Ballinascreen game.

“You’ve got to hoke out results. If teams are ultra-defensive, you just have to work with it and play a different game. The Ballinascreen game, I thought we were in control. I’m sure, for neutrals to watch, it was pretty dull.”

With the club’s hurlers down to play Ballycran in the Ulster club semi-final next weekend, it’s been another busy summer for their litany of dual players. This year’s Derry football championship has been so condensed that teams, at times, haven’t been afforded even a full week’s rest between games.

The only real Slaughtneil injury worry was over Cormac O’Doherty, who came off midway through the second half against Bellaghy with a hamstring complaint. Kearney says he will be fit, though, and praised the performances of an attacking division of whom the age-old criticism of a lack of scores appears to have finally gone away.

“Slaughtneil teams, in the past, would’ve been looked at as being strong in midfield and defensively, but after that we were always lacking a wee bit in scoring power. That has changed. We have forwards who can take scores.

“Young Shane McGuigan came on there [against Bellaghy] and did very well for a cub, scored two from play and hit a good free. That’s just him. There’s others we can bring on to get us scores.

“Sé [McGuigan] has been a big find for us this year and has done well. I think his strongest position is full-forward. Paul [Bradley] was doing well in there, but moving him out to centre three-quarters, since he’s gone out there, he’s played well.”

Slaughtneil’s big tactical decision will be over whether to retain Paul Bradley at centre-forward, or move Christopher Bradley out in an attempt to force the hugely influential Seán Leo McGoldrick to man-mark.

“That’s under consideration," Kearney said. 

"You have the option, if you play Sammy there then Seán Leo has to worry about him. It hasn’t been decided yet.”

GAA Football

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