Hurling and camogie

Slaughtneil stick with the plan as Kevin Lynch's seek to stop them making it nine in a row in Derry

Brendan Rodgers has been in goalscoring form for Slaughtneil on their run to another Derry SHC final against Kevin Lynch's tomorrow Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
BY MICHAEL McMULLAN

Leadon Timberframe Derry SHC final: Slaughtneil Robert Emmet's v Kevin Lynch's, Dungiven (tomorrow, Owenbeg, 4pm)

SLAUGHTNEIL head into tomorrow's showdown with rivals Kevin Lynch's bidding to hold onto the Fr Collins Cup for a ninth successive time.

The Emmet's won four titles in five years in the late 1960s. In the midst of Lavey and Dungiven/Kevin Lynch's dominance, the 1993 and 2000 wins were Slaughtneil's only other beacons of light until their current golden generation's blaze of glory.

“It has been said many times in our group, that while Slaughtneil have been riding on the crest of a wave over the last number of years, there were decades that getting to a championship final was seen as something big and out of reach for a Slaughtneil team,” said current manager Michael McShane.

This year's crop accounted for Lavey in the semi-finals, with two early Brendan Rogers setting them on their way to a facile win.

It was a game that saw the return of Paul McNeill and the Emmet's boss has confirmed that Conor McAllister will be available for selection after a spell out with a knee injury and his return will give McShane another option in the defence and midfield.

The news is not as positive for defender Seán Ó Caiside who faces an operation on a cruciate ligament injury.

Wednesday was the first time McShane had his full complement available since the semi-final, but the nature of preparation isn't an inconvenience, but more the norm.

“All the work is done a few weeks ago,” McShane said.

“We know how it works in Slaughtneil, once you hit championship it's week in week out and you have got to balance it as best you can.

“We have got the template that has been successful over the last few years and we just stick to it.”

Tomorrow's game is the fourth meeting of the giants of Derry hurling in as many seasons and the third in final, with Kevin Lynch's still waiting on a first title since 2011.

The winners will face three-in-a-row Antrim champions Dunloy in the Ulster championship in December.

Kevin Lynch's manager – and former Dunloy goalkeeper - Shane Elliott admits his side are ‘massive underdogs'.

“That's the reality,” said Elliott, whose son Ryan now dons the Dunloy number one jersey.

“The country and province have one eye on Slaughtneil playing my own Dunloy.”

Kevin Lynch's had a dramatic win over Lavey in the game of the championship and have maintained their winning ways. It included their semi-final with Banagher when they were in control, but had to go back to the well after a Banagher fightback.

That win came without injured duo Eoghan Cassidy and Tiarnán McHugh, but Elliott reported no ‘new' injuries from Dungiven's football clash with Banagher last weekend.

Cassidy played 35 minutes of Slaughtmanus's football defeat to Greenlough last weekend, while McHugh sat out Drumsurn's win over Lissan. Their progress would be assessed in training this week before any selection calls are made.

“They are getting there (back to fitness),” said Elliott and hopefully they will be able to play some part, how much of a part I am not sure.”

While they accept the underdogs' tag, Elliott said it's not something that is spoken about too much in the camp.

“We have really been focusing on how we are going to approach and game and trying to play a style of play that suits us to try and counteract the many strengths of Slaughtneil,” he said.

“It is a huge challenge and you can see in Dungiven they are certainly not shying away from it.”

Elliott speaks of the ‘spring in the step' that a county final brings. Michael McShane agrees.

“It is never ever taken for granted,” insists the Slaughtneil boss, now in this seventh season in charge.

“This group of players, while they are going for nine championships in a row on Sunday, each one is a big one, the next one and the one we want to win. Any player worth his corn. in any county, wants to play on championship final day. These boys are no different.

“We know what type of battle it is going to be; it is going to be tough, but we are really looking forward to it.”

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Hurling and camogie