Lessons learned from Kilcoo defeat can stand to Magherafelt says assistant boss Paul Quinn
MAGHERAFELT are hoping the lessons learned from last year’s Ulster exit to eventual champions Kilcoo will stand them in good stead against Slaughtneil on Sunday.
The O’Donovan Rossas claimed a first Derry title since 1978 when they toppled Watty Graham’s, Glen in the 2019 decider but came up short against the high-flying Magpies at the provincial quarter-final stage.
That sparked a winter of soul-searching, and Magherafelt face their biggest test of this year’s championship when they take on Slaughtneil – Ulster conquerors of Kilcoo in 2016 and 2017 – in Bellaghy on Sunday.
Dual commitments took a toll on the Emmet’s last year, but they have looked in rude health as they chase a first John McLaughlin Cup in three years, not least in Sunday’s one-sided semi-final victory over Ballinderry.
“We knew from the start they were going to be really good this year,” said Donaghmore native Paul Quinn, assistant to fellow clubman and former Tyrone star Adrian Cush.
“They were odds-on favourites from the start and they’ve lived up that billing. The only real test they had was against Glen so probably that’s the game we need to look at the most.
“They’re in really good form, they’re going well, they’re really well organised. They’re very strong defensively, very strong in the tackle and good at turning you over around the middle, then they break fast and have a very good full-forward line.
“But the defeat to Kilcoo last year showed our boys the level they have to get to. They went away over the winter, they’ve done a lot of work themselves and they’re really well conditioned.
"They went away and looked at Kilcoo and thought, we need more; we need to step it up to get to that level.
“Hopefully we’ll see that on Sunday because Slaughtneil would probably be on the same level as Kilcoo. Sunday will tell us whether we’re at that level too.”
And while Paul Bradley’s men have scored convincing wins over Kilrea, Eoghan Rua, Lavey, Foreglen and Ballinderry to get to this stage - as well as that narrow quarter-final defeat of neighbours Glen - Magherafelt could be more battle-hardened having come through some tough tests along the way.
Regardless of form, though, there promises to be very little between them and Slaughtneil when the ball is thrown in on Sunday.
“Maybe the fact we’ve had a tougher couple of games might help us,” said Donaghmore native Quinn.
“All the teams we beat this year are teams Magherafelt would traditionally find tough in championship football, so every one has been a step forward for the club.
“Even on Saturday night there, the whole build-up to the game, the change of venue, the delay to throw-in time, not being able to get out to the pitch, it was all different but the boys reacted well. Hopefully we’re ready for anything that’s thrown at us.
“We feel we’re actually getting better with every game this year, and we’re probably going to have to get better again on Sunday.
“It would maybe make it a bit sweeter to beat such a good team. Nobody could ever take that away from you.”