Saturday 25 March 2017

Slaughtneil make history and celebrate Ulster title hat-trick

Slaughtneil 0-12 Kilcoo 0-9

Slaughtneil’s Keelan Feeney and Martin Devlin of Kilcoo battle for the ball. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Slaughtneil’s Keelan Feeney and Martin Devlin of Kilcoo battle for the ball. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Orla Bannon

Slaughtneil withstood the pressure created by their own success, and came good at the end in yesterday's club SFC final to complete an unprecedented provincial treble.

The 2014 Ulster football winners were never behind against Kilcoo in the Athletic Grounds and held their nerve in a high quality second half to secure the clean sweep of Ulster football, camogie and hurling titles.

Slaughtneil captain Francis McEldowney lifts the cup after the AIB Ulster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final game against Kilcoo. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Slaughtneil captain Francis McEldowney lifts the cup after the AIB Ulster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final game against Kilcoo. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile

Four unanswered points in as many minutes just before the break gave them a 0-9 to 0-5 half-time lead and while Kilcoo controlled the third quarter, they couldn't draw level.

Asked whether the weight of history had been a burden or a source of inspiration for Slaughtneil, dual player Karl McKaigue admitted: "It was pressure, no doubt about it."

"The camogs won theirs and the hurlers had theirs in the bank and we still had three football games to go.

"Everywhere you went all you heard was people talking about the treble and saying 'these footballers are under some pressure now'.

Kilcoo's Ceilum Doherty with a shot on goal. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Kilcoo's Ceilum Doherty with a shot on goal. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

"Fair play to us, we took it game by game to cap off a magnificent 2016 for our club."

Slaughtneil manager Mickey Moran once again politely declined media requests.

The former Mayo, Donegal and Derry manager might be the quiet man of this set-up, but there is no doubting his role in turning a small rural club into the talk of the country.

They could create even more history - along with a scheduling nightmare for Croke Park - should they advance to both the All-Ireland club hurling and football finals on St Patrick's Day. "That is a long way off!" laughed McKaigue.

"We have an All-Ireland quarter-final in a fortnight's time and if we get over that, we'll think about it then.

"Now is the time to celebrate. We've had a long 2016.

"A lot of boys haven't even had a drink since the start of the championship so we will enjoy tonight."

Kilcoo were chasing an elusive first Ulster SFC crown, but struggled to contain Slaughtneil's athleticism in a defeat their manager Paul McIver labelled "gut-wrenching". Slaughtneil raced into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead before Ryan Johnston eased Kilcoo into the game, having a hand in all their early points as they drew level at three points each.

The sides were level on two more occasions in the first half, before Slaughtneil took over. Brendan Rodgers drove Slaughtneil forward from defence, making some inspirational runs and nailing two points. Chrissy McKaigue also came up from the back to fist over and a rare poor kickout by Niall Kane gifted Cormac O'Doherty a score giving the treble-chasers a big half-time lead.

Kilcoo came back out ready to hustle, stripping Slaughtneil of possession when they carried the ball into traffic, and hit three points on the bounce from Ceilum Doherty, Darragh O'Hanlon and Martin Devlin.

The five-in-a-row Down champions weren't clinical enough in front of goal, however. Conor Laverty hit a bad wide and with the goal beckoning, Doherty blazed the ball over the bar.

Slaughtneil regained composure and patiently kept possession, probing for an opening and Shane McGuigan was their chief scorer with 0-5, three from play. Slaughtneil hadn't conceded a goal throughout the championship, but Kilcoo came close to ending that late on. Anton McMullan made a superb low save to his left from Eugene Branagan's low shot and pushed the ball away to safety in Kilcoo's last big chance.

"The game was lost in that spell before half -time," said McIver. "Kilcoo was unreal in the second half, but we coughed up too many frees and missed a few chances.

"This club will be back, no doubt about it. They deserve their Ulster club. It may not be this year or next year but Kilcoo will be top of the pile at some stage."

Scorers - Slaughtneil: Shane McGuigan 0-5 (2f), P Bradley 0-2 (2f), B Rodgers 0-2, C McKaigue, C Bradley, C O'Doherty 0-1 each; Kilcoo: C Doherty 0-3, D O'Hanlon 0-2 (2f), D Branagan, R Johnston, M Devlin 0-1 each, P Devlin 0-1 (f).

Kilcoo - N Kane; E Branagan, D O'Hanlon, N Branagan; D Branagan, Aidan Branagan, Aaron Branagan; J McClean, JJ McLoughlin; C Dogerty, A Morgan, R Johnston; M Devlin, P Devlin, C Laverty. Subs: F McGreevy for McClean (BC, 40), D Kane for McLoughlin (46), D Ward for P Devlin (49), D McEvoy for M Devlin (57), N McEvoy for Aidan Branagan (60).

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 McGrath (40), G Bradley for Se McGuigan (46), B Cassidy fpr O'Doherty (57).

Ref - S Hurson (Tyrone).

Irish Independent

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