Slaughtneil 1-15 Cavan Gaels 0-10
Kings of Ulster Slaughtneil continue to occupy the northern throne, following their comprehensive victory over Cavan Gaels at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh today, writes Francis Mooney.
This remarkable club completed the treble for the second year in a row, joining the Emmets’ hurlers and camogs as provincial champions for 2017.
Shane McGuigan tormented the Cavan gaels defence with a sparkling performance, finishing with 1-6, including a brilliant second half goal, and all but two of his points came from play.
They also had immense displays from defenders Chrissy McKaigue and Brendan Rogers, along with midfielder Patsy Bradley, as they dismissed the courageous challenge of the Gaels with a well organised, disciplined display.
Cavan, appearing in their first final in 40 years, did have their moments, and were never lacking in courage and endeavour, but they never looked like they could break the spirit of this great Slaughtneil side.
Martin Dunne and Seanie Johnston were always a threat up front, but a lack of effective support was to prove costly for Jason O’Reilly’s men, who finished eight points adrift in the end in front of a crowd of 7,591 at the Armagh city venue.
Shane McGuigan and Christopher Bradley drilled over points inside the opening ten minutes to put the Oak Leaf champions on a firm footing, but they had to work hard to get the better of a stubborn defence in which Barry Fortune and Kevin Meehan stood tall.
However, the defending champions almost sneaked a goal when McGuigan sent in a dipping shot that goalkeeper Ciaran Flynn had to stretch to push away.
Cavan also had a goal chance when Johnston’s free dropped short, and when the Emmets defence failed to clear, Paul O’Connor seized possession, but his shot lacked power and the ball was cleared to safety.
Rogers and McKaigue were always prepared to raid from deep, bringing McGuigan and Christopher Bradley into the plays, and the scores flowed.
McGuigan brought his tally to four with a couple of fine scores from play, after Martin Dunne had scored Cavan’s only point of the opening quarter.
Cavan had their moments, narrowing the gap through Seanie Johnston and Dunne, and after Se McGuigan had restored the four points advantage, wing back Stephen Murray sprinted forward to swing over a brilliant point on the breakaway.
Slaughtneil led by 0-7 to 0-4 at the interval, and made a devastating start to the second half, with three points in the opening two and a half minutes, followed by a brilliant 37th minute goal.
It was a classing counter-attacking score, with full-back Rogers once more from deep, linking with midfielder Padraig Cassidy, who sent Shane McGuigan in for a crisp finish to the bottom corner of the net and a nine points lead, 1-10 to 0-4.
But Cavan’s response was admirable.
They picked themselves up off the floor to nail the next four scores. Johnston clipped over a couple of frees, and points from Dunne and Niall Smith narrowed the gap almost to manageable proportions, with corner back Kevin Meehan making a big contribution with a couple of perceptive intercepts.
Slaughtneil soon got themselves back on the front foot, and McGuigan added another couple of superb scores from play to his mounting tally, while Christopher Bradley knocked over a couple as the champions pushed for home and a place in the All-Ireland series.
Slaughtneil: A McMullan; P McNeill, B Rogers, K McKaigue; F McEldowney, C McKaigue (0-1), K Feeney; P Bradley, P Cassidy; R Bradley (0-2), Shane McGuigan (1-6, 0-2f), G Bradley; C Bradley (0-4, 1f), Se McGuigan (0-1), B Cassidy (0-1).
Subs: B McGuigan for G Bradley (48), P Kearney for McEldowney (BC, 50)
Cavan Gaels: C Flynn; L Fortune, N Murray (0-1), K Meehan; S Murray (0-1), B Fortune, D Sexton; P Graham, R Maloney-Derham; N Smith (0-1), M Lyng, L Murphy; P O’Connor, S Johnston (0-3, 3f), M Dunne (0-4).
Subs: D Meehan for P Graham (h-t)
Referee: C Branagan (Down).