Battle-hardened Slaughtneil show their character again

Battle-hardened by four long years on the road, Slaughtneil chiselled out an Ulster Club SFC quarter-final win in the most pressing of circumstances at Celtic Park.

Battle-hardened Slaughtneil show their character again

Ulster Club SFC

Slaughtneil (Derry) 0-10

Omagh (Tyrone) 0-8

Without their defensive talisman Chrissy McKaigue – black-carded after 42 minutes – they drew upon their potent mix of courage and experience to squeeze through to another provincial semi-final.

A third provincial title in four seasons is coming into view, but it’s that elusive All-Ireland that this remarkable dual club is after.

They’ve lost two Croke Park finals, but they’re determined to back to the well one more time despite the almost crippling demands of a parallel hurling odyssey.

“There is a lot of character in that team, there’s no two ways about it. We’re a long way off an Ulster final yet,” said assistant manager John Joe Kearney.

“There’s a bit of a break for the footballers now as regards hurling being on the back foot, which gives us a chance to keep the players in better shape.” Kearney hailed the composure of his players in the closing stages, when they starved Omagh of the oxygen of possession as the Tyrone champions chased the game late on.

“I suppose the composure presented itself in the way they handled the ball in the second half, kept possession as much as they could.

“When we got into the last five minutes we were fit to hold ball and see the game out.”

Playing with the wind, the Derry champions should have been further ahead by the end of the opening quarter than the four points they managed from Christopher Bradley, Padraig Cassidy and Shane McGuigan.

They kicked ten wides in the first half, and allowed Omagh to get back level through Conor Clarke.

Sé McGuigan’s splendid stoppage time score sent the Emmets in with a slender 0-6 to 0-5 interval lead, but crucially, they scored the first two points of the second half, both from Shane McGuigan’s frees.

Slaughtneil are masters when it comes to protecting a lead, and despite the loss of McKaigue they did so quite brilliantly, conceding just three points in the second half, from Joe McMahon, Ronan O’Neill, and Conor O’Donnell.

In the end, the place-kicking expertise of McGuigan and Christopher Bradley carried the champions over the line.

Scorers for Slaughtneil:

Shane McGuigan (0-4, free), C Bradley (0-4, 2 frees), S McGuigan, P Cassidy (0-1 each).

Scorers for Omagh:

C O’Donnell (0-2), R O’Neill (free), C Grugan (free), C Clarke, J McMahon (free), C McLaughlin, H Gallagher (0-1 each).

SLAUGHTNEIL:

A McMullan; P McNeill, B Rodgers, K McKaigue; F McEldowney, C McKaigue, K Feeney; Patsy Bradley, P McGuigan; Shane McGuigan, P Cassidy, M McGrath; C O’Doherty, Se McGuigan, C Bradley.

Subs:

B McGuigan for C McKaigue (42, BC), R Bradley for P McGuigan (44), B Cassidy for R Bradley (59)

OMAGH:

N McGinn; G Murray, H Gallagher, S Mullan; C McLaughlin, J McMahon, B Tierney; C Clarke, M Gallagher; T Gallagher, C Grugan, R O’Neill; C O’Neill, C O’Donnell, C Meyler.

Subs:

J McAnulla for T Gallagher (39), Justin McMahon for Clarke (49), A Grugan for C O’Neill (54).

Referee:

N Mooney (Cavan).

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