Slaughtneil target All-Ireland after easing to 'double-treble'
Slaughtneil 1-15 Cavan Gaels 0-10
A team can become blasé about winning things but the lack of obvious excitement from the Slaughtneil players after they captured an implausible 'double-treble' is a sure sign that they have an All-Ireland title in their sights.
The camogie contingent now have serious company as they wait for their All-Ireland semi-final in the last Saturday in January, and one can only imagine the additional workload of groundskeepers as they prepare an assault on senior All-Ireland titles across three codes.
If this was another step along the way, it was negotiated with the minimum of fuss.
Cavan Gaels manager Jason O'Reilly had made plans to stop the reigning Ulster champions from building from the back and had detailed markers for Chrissy and Karl McKaigue, along with Brendan Rogers, but that trio proved the launchpad for everything exciting about this performance.
It's hard to beat a team that is as economical as Slaughtneil. In the Ulster semi-final, they hit only two wides against Kilcar on a windy night.
Here, they had 25 shots and scored 1-15. Cavan Gaels had 22 attempts and managed 0-10.
The statistics demonstrate the depth and clarity of the work that Mickey Moran has put in with this group.
An argument could have been made that Slaughtneil were vulnerable coming into this.
Meehaul McGrath, Cormac O'Doherty and Paul Bradley are nailed-on starters but were all out through injury. For various reasons they were also without the likes of Sean Cassidy and Conor McAlister.
Yet Brian Cassidy made his first senior football championship start and weighed in with two points from play. Gerard Bradley returned to offer athleticism.
Even Peadar Kearney, whose last senior football game was in this fixture three seasons back, got a run.
They are a wonderfully-balanced panel of footballers, who have put the finishing touches to what must rank as one of the finest achievements in the history of the Association.
Cavan Gaels came with a plan, pushing up wing-back Levi Murphy to man-mark Chrissy McKaigue as one of a number of tactical ploys, but nothing came off for them.
Once Rogers revved that enormous engine of his in the fifth minute, taking on Paul O'Connor and travelling 80 yards upfield, only for Sé McGuigan to kick wide, the template was set.
This is Gaelic football's equivalent to playing out from the back - utterly fearless and trusting in your skills.
They quickly settled into a rhythm, Patsy Bradley turning over Robert Maloney-Derham and ending in a Ronan Bradley point for their third score of the afternoon, just prior to Padraig Cassidy streaking through and botching a decent goal chance on the quarter-hour mark.
They were to add four more points to head in three points clear at half-time, with Cavan Gaels ruing the chance they had when Seanie Johnston's 10th-minute free fell short to Paul O'Connor and despite cutting across goal to give himself a better angle, had his shot foiled by Slaughtneil goalkeeper Antoin McMullan.
A trio of points followed after the break, but eight minutes into the half came the hammer blow that made the gap too big for Cavan Gaels, making their first appearance at this stage since 1977.
A Martin Dunne ball towards Paul O'Connor was prevented by Patsy Bradley and Rogers built the attack, sprinting deep into the Gaels' defence, feeding Padraig Cassidy whose quick hands put Shane McGuigan through.
The 20-year-old buried his close-range shot under Gaels goalkeeper Ciaran Flynn.
Nine points up with 25 minutes to play, it felt like a procession from there to the finish.
Cavan Gaels offered some resistance, the introduction of Declan Meehan offering a new dimension to their attack, but Slaughtneil won so many of the individual battles that they were never going to be overpowered.
Four points in the last 10 minutes underlined their superiority and they were able to truly express themselves with their opponents growing more desperate.
Scorers - Slaughtneil: Shane McGuigan 1-6 (0-2f), C Bradley 0-3 (1f), R Bradley, B Cassidy 0-2 each, Sé McGuigan, C McKaigue 0-1 each. Cavan Gales: M Dunne 0-4 (1 '45), S Johnston 0-3 (3f), N Murray, S Murray, N Smith 0-1 each.
SLAUGHTNEIL - A McMullan; P McNeill, B Rogers, K McKaigue; F McEldowney (P Kearney BC, 51), C McKaigue, K Feeney; P Bradley, P Cassidy; R Bradley, Shane McGuigan, G Bradley; C Bradley, Sé McGuigan, B Cassidy. Subs: B McGuigan (49) for G Bradley, P McGuigan (57) for R Bradley.
CAVAN GAELS - C Flynn; L Fortune, N Murray, K Meehan; S Murray, B Fortune, L Murphy; P Graham, R Maloney-Derham; N Smith, M Lyng, D Sexton; P O'Connor, S Johnston, M Dunne. Sub: D Meehan for P Graham (h-t).
Ref - C Branagan (Down)