Slaughtneil minds need a rest more than the bodies says Cormac O'Doherty
WHEN the dust began to settle on Slaughtneil’s All-Ireland club final defeat by Corofin last March, the bodies began to feel the toll of their exertions.
It had been a long year-and-a-bit and when they stopped, the niggles and bumps and scrapes they’d been carrying through their Ulster and All-Ireland campaigns came to the fore.
There were a handful of key players who barely touched leather in league football last year as they underwent rehabilitation programmes. Although it served them well, they had the luxury of time to get themselves right. And so perhaps when Mickey Moran and his hurling counterpart Michael McShane get together later this week to discuss their plans going forward, they will be wary of giving the players a break.
Dual star Cormac O’Doherty, who turned in his best display of the campaign to lead the line brilliantly against St Kiernan’s last Sunday afternoon, is one of those that has had an exceptionally busy autumn.
With All-Ireland semi-finals against Cuala on February 4 and St Vincent’s a week later now secured, O’Doherty feels that the legs will be fine - but that the minds will be glad of the rest.
“It’ll be up to the two managers, they’ll probably meet now on Tuesday or Wednesday and sort out our plans up until that hurling match on the fourth and the football the following weekend.
“Whatever they tell us to do, we’ll go and do. Probably, we’ll get a week off and then back into it over Christmas and take it from there. There’s times during that game you say you’d need a bit of a break, then there’s times you feel fresh enough.
“I think it’s mentally more than physically you feel it. Getting up for big games all the time, it’s tough on you. The next two games coming are going to be even bigger. It’s getting the brain refreshed as much as the legs,” he said.
St Kiernan’s were seeking to become the first ever London champions to reach a senior All-Ireland club semi-final and Chris Byrne’s side started well in sunny Greenford.
But by the end of an opening quarter that they had dominated, the hosts found themselves 0-3 to 0-1 down, having been unable to make headway against Slaughtneil’s vaunted full-back line.
Two goals in four minutes from Christopher Bradley and Meehaul McGrath pushed the Ulster champions into an unassailable 2-5 to 0-1 half-time lead, and they cruised through the second period.
“There’s plenty of teams came over here and struggled. You know you’re not going to get it all your own way. We’d targeted the first five or 10 minutes but we started off slowly and they put it up to us. But whenever we got the goals we were able to control the game and play our own style,” said O’Doherty.
“The goals came at good times and killed whatever momentum they had built in the first 10 minutes, and we closed out the game well as we normally do.
“Things like that we can’t afford coming into the bigger games. We were slow to start and St Kiernan’s threw everything they had at us. We weathered it well and whenever the chances came, we took them.”
O’Doherty was among those who battled their way into the jammed Tír Chonaill Gaels clubhouse for a glimpse of the second-half of St Vincent’s win over Rhode in the Leinster final.
The Ulster and Leinster champions will meet in a mouth-watering semi-final, most likely in either Newry or Portlaoise, in just under two months’ time.
Slaughtneil’s conquerors from that All-Ireland final last March, Corofin, are on the other side of the draw with Dr Crokes, but O’Doherty says the prospect of revenge on St Patrick’s Day is not near the agenda.
“Today was just a stepping stone. We know what the football team’s capable of, and the hurling and camogie teams. We can make 2017 a year to remember; the apple’s there for us to grab, hopefully we can improve and do what we should have done a couple of years ago," he added.
“You can’t have revenge on your mind. It’s going to be there and people will say you’re going to want to right the wrongs but this is a different year. It’s a different panel. That’s two years ago and there is no revenge mission.
"It’s go and do ourselves justice.”