McKaigue inspires Slaughtneil's final march
Slaughtneil 0-12 St Vincent's 0-10
Of all the victories they've managed in hurling and football in the last three years, Slaughtneil pulled off perhaps their greatest yet, humbling St Vincent's to advance to the AIB All-Ireland club football final.
This was a thoroughly deserved victory for the Derry club, who played as a team with a collective spirit and hunger that left the Dublin champions trailing in their wake. Their inspiration was undoubtedly centre half-back Chrissy McKaigue, who marked Diarmuid Connolly for most of the game and outscored him by four points to one.
McKaigue was immense, choosing his moments to drive forward and landed three monster scores in the second half with the wind.
This was not the outcome St Vincent's had expected and they lost their discipline in the last quarter, with black cards for Brendan Egan and Cormac Diamond, while Connolly and Ger Brennan were also booked in that spell.
Connolly had spells at full-forward against Brendan Rodgers, but mostly at centre half-forward against McKaigue. He found both to be tough customers, and most of the scoring damage in the opening half was done by Mayo's Enda Varley, who scored two points from play and converted two frees.
Christopher Bradley scored the opening point for Slaughtneil after four minutes, but Vincent's had a good first quarter and led by 0-3 to 0-1, with Nathan Mullins and Connolly scoring from play. An accomplished defensive spine has helped Slaughtneil to the top of the pile in Ulster, and they grew in confidence as they came to terms with Vincent's attacking strengths.
McKaigue showed great leadership to surge forward, throwing off the tackles to shoot from 40 metres and his shot into a strong wind curled inside the far post.
But Slaughtneil's five first-half wides and Paul Bradley's poor 25-metre free, which dropped short, were tempered with Christopher Bradley's left-footed point to tie the scores at five points each.
Varley's left-footed point edged Vincent's back in front, 0-6 to 0-5, at the break. Slaughtneil outscored Vincent's by five points to one in a 13-minute spell after the interval, McKaigue with two points and Christopher Bradley and Shane McGuigan also scoring. Vincent's go-to men were being bottled up, but Gavin Burke found the space and accuracy to score twice with his left foot.
Vincent's carved out the game's only goal chance, with Shane Carthy flicking the ball towards goal, but goalkeeper Anton McMullan dived to his left to turn the ball round the post. Varley pointed his only score of the second half, but Vincent's just couldn't get back on level terms.
Scorers - Slaughtneil: C McKaigue 0-4, C Bradley 0-3, Shane McGuigan 0-3 (2f), Paul Bradley 0-2 (2f). St Vincent's: E Varley 0-5 (2f), G Burke 0-2, D Connolly, N Mullins, S Carthy 0-1 each
Slaughtneil: A McMullan; F McEldowney, B Rodgers, 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 Se McGuigan (54), B McGuigan for K McKaigue (BC, 64).
St Vincent's: M Savage; M Concarr, J Curley, C Wilson; B Egan, G Brennan, Cameron Diamond; N Mullins, S Carthy; G Burke, D Connolly, Cormac Diamond; R Trainor, E Varley, T Quinn. Subs: A Martin for Trainor (46), J Feeney for Cormac Diamond (BC, 61), K Golden for Cameron Diamond (67), F Breathnach for Mullins (58), S McCusker for Egan (BC, 62).
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon)
Sunday Indo Sport