Hurling and camogie

Slaughtneil focus on winning matches rather than respect: Brendan Rogers

Brendan Rogers landed three points from play as Slaughtneil saw off Portaferry in Sunday's Ulster Club SHC semi-final at Corrigan Park. Picture by Hugh Russell
Neil Loughran

SLAUGHTNEIL’S focus is on winning matches rather than winning respect, insists swashbuckling forward Brendan Rogers.

The 28-year-old dual ace bagged three points from play as the Emmet’s swept past Portaferry in Sunday’s Ulster semi-final to set up a December 4 decider against Antrim champions Dunloy.

Having lifted the Four Seasons Cup in four out of the last five years (there was no Ulster club SHC in 2020), Slaughtneil go into that game aiming to cement their position as provincial kingpins.

It was back in 2019 that boss Michael McShane, in the midst of celebrating their Ulster final victory over Dunloy, revealed he felt “insulted” by some of the pre-match chat about how his side might approach that game.

“Did you read some of the media this week and some of the things that were being said?” he asked.

“In other words, we were only thugs with hurling sticks, not hurlers.”

At Corrigan Park on Sunday, the Derry champions showed once more that they bring much than physical prowess to the table as their pace and directness helped overwhelm Portaferry.

And Rogers says Slaughtneil are happy to let their performances do the talking.

“We try and pride ourselves on being conditioned and that’s the kind of lifestyle we want to live as a club,” he said.

“Maybe that’s the perception of how we play, but that’s just the way it is. We don’t go out to try and be more physical than any other team. You try and get your body in the right place and maybe that’s how it appears?

“We try to play as much hurling as we can as often as we can. Sometimes the game is just cagey and you have to play like that until it opens up a bit.

“In many ways, I feel your respect is earned,” he added. “Maybe, in terms of the hurling scene, we are deemed as a young enough team in terms of winning.

“We’ve had a 10-year period were we’ve been competitive in Ulster. It will come with time - we’re not crying for people to give us pats on the back.

“Sometimes it is not ideal when someone tries to degrade the effort you are putting in because, at the end of the day, we’re trying to strive to better Ulster hurling and bring another All-Ireland up north.

“It isn’t something we’ll dwell on too much, we’ll always focus on ourselves. If people think what’s the way we are, so be it.”

The evolution in Slaughtneil’s play, and their panel, has been clear to see over recent years.

In the last two All-Ireland campaigns the Emmet’s have come up short against the eventual champions - Ballyhale Shamrocks and Ballygunner - but McShane has much greater depth at his disposal this year.

Against Portaferry he gave starts to Peter McCullagh, Ruairí Ó Mianáin and Shéa Cassidy, with the experienced trio Mark McGuigan, Gerald Bradley and Jerome McGuigan all coming off the bench as they eased across the line.

However, Rogers knows Dunloy will provide a stiffer test of Slaughtneil’s mettle when the pair lock horns on December 4.

“They are a team like ourselves that is always striving to be better.

“The more you see them doing well, the more it gives us a little bit of a kick to do a bit more. It should be a very exciting game. No doubt Dunloy are going to prepare as best they can and they are coming off some very impressive victories in the Antrim championship. Why wouldn’t they be confident coming in?

“We just have to try and play our game and, hopefully, it pays off. You can never look back at any of those previous performances and say that we were dominant or anything like that.

“Sometimes, one goal or one score was the decisive moment and that kills it in the last five or 10 minutes and maybe it wasn’t a reflection on how it went.”

Hurling and camogie