McGrath goal puts seal on Slaughtneil's final date
Slaughtneil's ability to remain calm and composed under pressure paid off at the Athletic Grounds, where they comfortably saw off Killyclogher of Tyrone to set up a final date with Kilcoo.
Slaughtneil 1-11 Killyclogher 0-8
The Derry men shifted from a pacey, strong-running game in the opening half to a controlled strategy of ball retention almost seamlessly, as they swept to an impressive six-point success.
Meehaul McGrath's 33rd-minute goal produced the pivotal moment and gave Mickey Moran's side the opportunity to play out the remainder of the game on their own terms, starving their opponents of possession as they patiently and systematically crafted scores.
The approach was more attacking in the first-half, when they ran directly at their opponents, winning the frees that Paul Bradley sent over to lay a solid foundation.
"Full credit to the boys, they kept the ball well and that got us over the line," said full-back Brendan Rogers.
"In the second-half we were a bit more composed on the ball."
The 2014 provincial champions struggled against Derrygonnelly of Fermanagh in the quarter-final, but yesterday they were back to their best.
"Maybe it takes a bad game to bring out a good game, and that Derrygonnelly game made training a bit more feisty. Maybe that was the kick up the backside that we needed to get over a game like today," said Rogers.
Moran's men got most joy from a direct game that put their opponents on the back foot.
"It's the only way you can get scores against a team that sets up as well as Killyclogher," Rogers reckoned.
Mark Bradley spun past Karl McKaigue to split the posts from his first touch, but the Derry men soon settled into the game, with Paul Bradley and Shane McGuigan converting frees.
Paul Bradley and Christopher Bradley were probing for openings in the early stages, but it was only when Rogers charged through on a searing run from deep that they decided they would garner more reward from a direct approach.
The Derry defender sliced through the Tyrone side's defence to set up another free-kick opportunity, which Bradley dispatched.
Slaughtneil learned that there was profit to be had from running directly at their opponents, and so a nervous defence coughed up the frees, which Bradley knocked over to give them a 0-6 to 0-4 interval lead, with Conall McCann and Simon O'Neill on target in the interim.
Sean McGuigan danced past a couple of defenders to send McGrath in for a straightforward finish to the net less than three minutes into the second-half, and Slaughtneil then had the Tyrone men exactly where they wanted them.
They held possession for lengthy spells, and swooped for scores through Padraig Cassidy and Christopher Bradley when the opportunities arose.
Cassidy curbed the running threat posed by Tiernan McCann, and both Rogers and Keelan Feeney performed brilliantly at the back.
Killyclogher fell eight points behind, and when they did have a late spell, it was too late for scores from Mark Bradley, Tiernan Cox and Martin Swift to make any difference, though Antóin McMullan did pull off a brilliant save from Cox.
scorers -Slaughtneil: M McGrath 1-0, Paul Bradley 0-5 (5f), C Bradley 0-2, Shane McGuigan (f), Se McGuigan, P Cassidy, R Bradley 0-1 each
Killyclogher: M Bradley 0-4 (3f), C McCann, S O'Neill (f), T Cox, M Swift 0-1 each.
Slaughtneil: A McMullan, F McEldowney, B Rogers, K McKaigue, P McNeill, C McKaigue, K Feeney, Patsy Bradley, P Cassidy, Shane McGuigan, Paul Bradley, M McGrath, C Bradley, Se McGuigan, C O'Doherty.
Subs: R Bradley for O'Doherty (52), P Kelly for McGrath (63)
Killyclogher: S Fox, M Swift, D Gorman, G Sludden, T McCann, E Bradley, G Wallace, C McCann, F Meenagh, A Kelly, T Flanagan, N Donnelly, E McFadden, M Bradley, S O'Neill.
Subs: J Carlin for Flanagan (26), T Cox for Donnelly (43), D Leonard for O'Neill (44), M Meenagh for F Meenagh (58), C Meenan for Kelly (63)
Ref: C Branagan (Down)