Ladies the shining example in Slaughtneil

AIB All-Ireland Club SFC final
Ladies the shining example in Slaughtneil

Lose Friday’s AIB All-Ireland club SFC final to Dr Crokes and the Slaughtneil footballers could be on the receiving end of some instructions from their camogie counterparts for the next year.

The prospect of a second All-Ireland final defeat in three years (Corofin beat them in 2015) is incentive enough to ensure the record-breaking Derry club perform this time when they get to Croke Park.

Yet even if they win, they can’t lay claim to being the first side to bring an All-Ireland senior club title home – an honour that belongs to the camogie team following their success a week ago.

John Joe Kearney, assistant manager of the football team, can only imagine the barbs awaiting them if the girls stay on top.

“We’ll not want to be the ones who didn’t bring home an All-Ireland.

“You know what women are like when they win things – they start to boss you a bit!

“God knows what jobs they’d have us doing.

“But seriously, their win is a huge inspiration.

“The footballers are taking a lot of momentum from that which will carry them forward.”

Slaughtneil, or more specifically Chrissy McKaigue, tamed Diarmuid Connolly in last month’s All-Ireland semi-final victory over St Vincent’s, a result which surprised many outside of the Sperrins.

Connolly might be one of the best forwards in the country, but now Slaughtneil are faced with possibly the greatest of all time in Colm Cooper.

“What a man to have to work out a plan for,” says Kearney.

An All-Ireland club medal is the only glaring omission from Gooch’s incredible CV and if Slaughtneil weren’t facing him on St Patrick’s Day Kearney insists “for sure” he’d be supporting him in his quest to complete the set.

“He’s always been an exemplary footballer, a clean footballer, and played the game the way it should be played with no messing.

“He will take a bit of watching because aside from being a great footballer, he’s a brainy footballer and quick-thinking leads to a lot of things happening.

“That could be good for them and bad for us. He’s clever.”

Kearney was equally as impressed by Dáithí Casey in their semi-final win over Corofin.

The full-forward, jettisoned from the Kerry squad two years ago, was also superb in Crokes’ seventh Munster championship-winning campaign last autumn.

“He is a big threat.

“He started at full-forward against Corofin but played mostly at centre three-quarters and midfield and will take a lot of looking after.

“Kieran O’Leary causes a lot of problems and is another man who needs to be marshalled.”

Slaughtneil’s strength is undoubtedly their defence and Kearney has such confidence in that unit that he reckons 1-12 will be enough to see them crowned champions.

“Our back six are good man-markers, they don’t give much away and they don’t foul. Our goalkeeper hasn’t conceded a goal right through the championship.

“In the recent few games the forwards are starting to click too.

“We mightn’t score a lot of goals but we’re pretty good at keeping the opposition’s score down so we’re hoping one will balance out the other.

“I would like to see us scoring a goal and 12 (points). I think if we get that, we’ll come home with a trophy.”

The hurlers’ semi-final loss to Cuala ended hopes of an All-Ireland treble, but the double is still on.

“It is nearly a must-do for us, and I hope saying that doesn’t put extra pressure on the players, but I don’t think it will,” added Kearney.

“They are determined.

“They know they under-performed the last time we were in Croke Park two years ago and there is an opportunity here to be taken.”

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