Slaughtneil swat Dunloy aside to reach decider
Slaughtneil 1-18 Dunloy 2-8
When their supremacy is threatened, within Ulster at least, Slaughtneil seem to be able to come up with all the right answers.
Suggestions they couldn't back up last year's first Ulster final win over Loughgiel by seeing off Antrim's 11-time Ulster kingpins Dunloy proved to be loose talk at Owenbeg yesterday.
It's true that in the first quarter, this amazing dual team did look like a bunch of footballers who hadn't been playing enough hurling.
An emerging young Dunloy side, back in the provincial series for the first time in eight years, scored 1-4 without reply with Nigel Elliott's ninth-minute goal helping them into a six-point lead.
But once Slaughtneil settled and got to the pitch of the game, they were emphatic and reeled off eight points in a row before half-time.
Cormac O'Doherty missed some early frees but top-scored with 0-11 while inevitably Chrissy McKaigue and Brendan Rodgers were leading players in the turnaround and combined for the goal just before the break.
Rodgers got the final touch to McKaigue's dropping ball and they led 1-9 to 1-5 at the break.
The second half became a procession with Brian Cassidy, Rodgers, and particularly O'Doherty, sending over some sparkling long-range scores in front of 6,142 - the biggest attendance at a hurling match in Ulster for quite some time.
Paul Shiels scored a late consolation goal, drilling a 20-metre free past six Slaughtneil men on the line.
However, the Antrim champions, back in the provincial series for the first time in eight years, had never lost a match in the Ulster SHC and lost their discipline at the end.
Teenager Conal Cunning received a straight red card for striking McKaigue in the dying seconds.
Scorers - Slaughtneil: C Doherty 0-11 (5f, 1'65'), B Rodgers 1-2, B Cassidy 0-2, C McKaigue, G Bradley, Se McGuigan 0-1 each. Dunloy: P Shiels 1-5 (5f), N Elliott 1-0, G McTaggert, Keelan Molloy, E O'Neill 0-1 each.
Slaughtneil - O Doherty; K McKaigue, Sean Cassidy, M McGuigan; M McGrath, Shane McGuigan, P McNeill; C McAllister, C McKaigue; G Bradley, Se Cassidy, B Rodgers; Se McGuigan, B Cassidy, C Doherty. Subs: C McKenna for Sean Cassidy (10), G O'Kane for Se Cassidy (34).
Dunloy - R Elliott; P Quinn, J McKeague, P Shivers; K McLeague, C McKinley, Kevin Molloy; C Elliott, P Shiels; N Elliott, G McTaggert, Keelan Molloy; E O'Neill, A Dooey, C Cunning. Subs: N McKeague for C Elliott (h-t), C Brogan for Dooey (40), S Dooey for McTaggert (43), E Smyth for P Shivers (51).
Ref - J Clarke (Cavan)