Clinical Slaughtneil hailed as 'new Crossmaglen' after holding off Omagh
Slaughtneil 0-10 Omagh 0-8
There is no greater flattery in Ulster club football to have comparisons to Crossmaglen flung in your direction, and that's exactly what Paddy Crozier gave Slaughtneil after they edged out his Omagh St Enda's team in clinical, cold fashion in a gusty Celtic Park.
"They're the new Crossmaglen," said Crozier, who managed a couple of the Slaughtneil players while Derry manager at the tail-end of the last decade.
"They've taken over the mantle from Crossmaglen and there's no telling where this team will go."
After a bruising hurling final victory the previous Sunday, Slaughtneil were forced out for another bout of action six days on, and once again in a tight situation, they leaned on all their hard-won experience to make it to an Ulster semi-final and keep alive their audacious hopes of completing back-to-back trebles of Ulster football, hurling and camogie Championships.
"There is a lot of character in that team," said Slaughtneil assistant manager John Joe Kearney. "There's a bit of a break for the footballers now as regards hurling being on the back foot, which gives us a chance to keep the players in better shape."
While the dreadful conditions led to a rash of wides from both sides, the overall skills were of the highest calibre. Slaughtneil hit ten first-half wides but their handling and general link-up play was irresistible.
They went 0-4 to 0-0 up after 13 minutes, gaining great success from pressuring Omagh goalkeeper Niall McGinn's kickout. So flustered was McGinn that three of his kickouts floated out over the sideline in the first half.
Gradually Omagh worked their way into things and with an overloaded defence, were able to counter-attack, with Connor O'Donnell available for the outlet ball.
He opened their account, then full-back Hugh Gallagher sallied forth and got on the end of a fine move to add their second.
The reigning champions went in at half time one point up, but the goal chance that fell to Barry Tierney seconds after the restart will go down as a 'what-if' moment for Omagh.
Shane McGuigan quickly knocked over two frees in quick succession that gave Slaughtneil a platform.
Despite another impressive performance by Omagh full-forward O'Donnell - who surely is worth a call-up by Tyrone manager Mickey Harte after torturing Brendan Rogers here - and a black card for Chrissy McKaigue, the Derry men are so well versed on the art of retaining possession that they were able to see the game out without any drama.
With a swirling wind, Grugan kicked two wides in the second half. But Omagh were still breathing down Slaughtneil's necks when Grugan wriggled into a bit of space. It looked as if he was about to bound into enough space for a goal chance, until McKaigue flung himself around his waist, earning a black card.
Omagh felt that they would get another goal chance and so it came.
O'Donnell split the defence open with a delivery to the dashing Tierney, who would have been in for a goal, but the ever-alert Karl McKaigue was on hand to punch it out over the line.
And from then on, Slaughtneil began the process of seeing out the game. Few do it better.
Next weekend, Slaughtneil get a well-earned breather. But as Kearney quipped, "I wouldn't be surprised if Mickey called training tomorrow morning."
Scorers - Slaughtneil: C Bradley (2fs), Shane McGuigan (4fs) 0-4 each, Se McGuigan, Padraig Cassidy 0-1. Omagh: C O'Donnell 0-2, H Gallagher, C McLaughlin, J McMahon (f), C Clarke, C Grugan (f), R O'Neill (f) 0-1 each.
SLAUGHTNEIL - A McMullan; P McNeill, B Rogers, K McKaigue; F McEldowney, C McKaigue, K Feeney; Patsy Bradley, Padraig Cassidy; Shane McGuigan, P McGuigan, M McGrath; C O'Doherty, Sé McGuigan, C Bradley. Subs: R Bradley for P McGuigan (45), B Cassidy for R Bradley (60)
OMAGH - N McGinn; G Murray, H Gallagher, S Mullan; C McLaughlin, Joe McMahon, B Tierney; C Clarke, M Gallagher; T Gallagher, C Grugan, R O'Neill; C O'Neill, C O'Donnell, C Meyler. Subs: J McAnulla for T Gallagher (40), Justin McMahon for Clarke (50), A Grugan for O'Neill (55)
Ref - N Mooney (Cavan)