Slaughtneil match-winner Brendan Rogers opens up about central role
THE SLAUGHTNEIL hurlers may have stumbled across another position for Brendan Rogers to hurt the opposition following his devastating scoring spree that saw off Dunloy in last Sunday’s Ulster semi-final.
The mercurial Emmet's man had been playing most of his hurling at wing-forward this season while always being regarded as prolific full-forward.
On Sunday, Rogers caused most of the damage from a deep-lying central position where he bagged a game-winning 1-3 in the space of eight second-half minutes that ended Dunloy’s provincial prospects.
In the opening period, the dual player fired over a great score from the left hand side but his penetrating runs from midfield in the second half were the key to winning the game and Slaughtneil reaching their sixth Ulster final since 2013.
“I was fortunate to find myself in space,” Rogers said, who was passed fit for Sunday’s semi-final after suffering the ill-effects of a stomach bug.
“Maybe that is what it is like being in the middle of the field and I am not there a lot of the time. I wouldn’t say I crafted anything special. I just tried to play my position and offer something both defensively and attacking and when I attacked I was fortunate enough to get the ball.”
On his illness, Rogers joked that maybe his manager Michael McShane would allow him stay away from training again ahead of Sunday’s provincial decider against Ballycran at Corrigan Park (1pm).
“I caught a bit of a bug and I needed time to get over it. I was lacking energy and it takes a couple of days. It wasn’t Covid in case you are wondering! But I had to look after myself and I didn’t train. Maybe he [McShane] would let me do the same again this week! But I was grand. I was well enough prepared.”
Slaughtneil are aiming to win their fourth Ulster title since claiming the silverware in 2016, 2017 and 2019 and will be keen to get another crack at the All-Ireland in the new year having almost toppled Ballyhale Shamrocks in a memorable semi-final in Newry two years ago.
“It was a nice level for us to get to, given how poorly we played in All-Ireland semi-finals previously,” Rogers said. “Ballyhale are such a formidable team, we knew we had to increase our capacity from a hurling perspective, we weren’t physically good in other years, and just that year we had a hurling focus for it.
“Looking back on it, yes, we put it up to one of the best teams in Ireland. But we didn’t get over the line so there is an element of us not being happy with that performance at the same time. Nobody is happy with a defeat.
“It’s a level we want to expand upon, we don’t want to just get there again because that doesn’t win you games as we found out.
“All the time we are trying to get better and better but without looking too far ahead of ourselves, we never took our focus off Dunloy, and now we have to look at next week as well. That’s all we have earned the right for.
“But playing at this time of the year is always exciting and it’s never anything you take for granted,” Rogers added.
“You could say we had the privilege of losing two [Ulster] finals since I began against Loughgiel and Cushendall in extra-time (in 2013 and 2015, respectively). We knew after 2016 the value of winning an Ulster Championship, how precious it is and how we drove on and won a couple more…
“You don’t really want to play in friendlies in pre-season, you want to be in the thick of it and that’s why we are always looking to put our best foot forward in the Ulster Championship and we can look forward to another final.”