Sport GAA

Saturday 21 July 2018

Slaughtneil learn lessons from the past in famous hat-trick bid

Everyone marvels at Slaughtneil’s success across three codes but for Conor McAllister, it only dawns on him how lucky he is to be part of this historic run when he leaves the Derry village. (stock picture)
Everyone marvels at Slaughtneil’s success across three codes but for Conor McAllister, it only dawns on him how lucky he is to be part of this historic run when he leaves the Derry village. (stock picture)

Michael Verney

Everyone marvels at Slaughtneil's success across three codes but for Conor McAllister, it only dawns on him how lucky he is to be part of this historic run when he leaves the Derry village.

As a student teacher in St Mary's University Belfast, McAllister regularly mingles with other GAA folk and it brings an appreciation of where the club has come from to their current peak of winning back-to-back Ulster trebles in hurling, Gaelic football and camogie.

There would be no such talk in Slaughtneil, however, as they intend to strike while the iron is hot and further cement their legacy - a prime example of a club with humility at its core as they always strive for improvement.

With their camogie side already in the All-Ireland decider, their hurlers and footballers will look to do likewise but Limerick giants Na Piarsaigh first stand in the way for tomorrow's AIB All-Ireland club SHC semi-final in Parnell Park (2.0)

"That's the next step for us. We've won Ulster two years in-a-row. A lot of people said after the Loughgiel game (in 2016) we maybe fell over the line. Maybe we were a bit of a one-trick pony, maybe it was a bit of a one-off," the dual player said.

Established

"But, we proved this year against Dunloy in the semi-final, we beat them convincingly. And we went on to beat Ballygalget convincingly, we have definitely established ourselves as the top team in Ulster now.

"But this is next level, you need to push on to now. There is no point resting on your laurels. You have to try and get to the next level, which would be making an All-Ireland final."

A "naive" Slaughtneil side were given "a lesson" by Cuala at the same stage 12 months ago, but rather than deter them, it has driven them to new heights.

"We were maybe a wee bit naive to the step up in competition.

"Cuala were maybe a bit of an unknown team last year, but we are definitely a better hurling team this year than we were last year. We have got a lot more hurling under the belt, and that experience was a learning curve for us," the 20-year-old said.

"The speed of their skills, their athleticism, their size, just everything. We were second in every department really.

"We've tried our best to bridge that gap, more strength and conditioning, more hurling skills, more top friendlies. That's who you need to challenge yourselves against."

The scale of their task is reflected in their 11/1 tag of outsiders against 2016 All-Ireland champions Na Piarsaigh but odds won't bother them, Slaughtneil always do things differently.

Irish Independent

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