Hurling and camogie

Redemption mission was 'elephant in the room': Slaughtneil boss Michael McShane

Ballycran's Liam Savage closes in on Slaughtneil's Gerald Bradley dring yesterday's Ulster Club SHC final. Picture by Hugh Russell

AIB Ulster Club SHC final: St Joseph’s, Ballycran (Down) 0-10 Robert Emmet’s, Slaughtneil (Derry) 1-14

IT might not have been mentioned, but the 2018 drubbing at the hands of Ballycran was the “elephant in the room” as Slaughtneil stepped up their preparations for yesterday’s Ulster final showdown.

The Emmet’s were defending Ulster champions and huge favourites to see off the Crans when they ran out at Corrigan Park for that semi-final showdown three years ago.

However, the Down champions ripped up the script in spectacular fashion – blasting four goals past Slaughtneil on the way to a famous 10-point win, sending Michael McShane and his players back up the road wondering what had just happened.

That was the last competitive meeting between the clubs, and while so much focus had gone into the previous week’s clash with Dunloy, the Emmet’s didn’t have to look too far for motivation coming in against Ballycran.

“Three years ago we were here, we got our eye wiped by them, but we were determined today – we knew what sort of game it was going to be. It wasn’t going to be a game for the purist,” said McShane after yesterday’s seven point victory.

“It was mentioned once last Sunday evening, and we all agreed we would out that thought to the back of our mind, because if you focus too much on redemption, you take your eye off what you should be doing.

“But it was in the back of everybody’s head and not spoken – it was the elephant in the room. At half-time it was mentioned a couple of times… we were delighted it was in Corrigan Park again because it was like coming back to the scene of the crime.

“No better place to do it, and we said, listen, we all owe it to each other. We all remember the horrible feeling in the changing room three years ago and we’re not letting that happen today.”

And yet Ballycran joint managers Jamie Fowler and James Henry Hughes had seen their side make a strong start, holding the upper hand at the first water break as Slaughtneil struggled to find their feet.

But once their running game started to click into gear, the Emmet’s were always going to take some stopping.

“The first half we had our chances, definitely in the first quarter - if we’d taken them obviously it would’ve made a difference,” said Fowler.

“In the second half Slaughtneil had five or six frees in the first six minutes, I thought a lot of them were dubious… I’m not going to start blaming referees, you don’t do that, but we knew what Slaughtneil were going to bring to the table.

“They’ve been the best team in Ulster the last four or five years, we just couldn’t match them today.”

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Hurling and camogie