For a team renowned for its defensive prowess, the 17 points and four goal chances Slaughtneil offered up to Kilcar last time out has given the management plenty to think about ahead of Sunday’s AIB Ulster club SFC final.
SLAUGHTNEIL (Derry) V CAVAN GAELS (Cavan) - AIB Ulster Club SFC final
Sunday: Athletics Grounds, 3pm
Referee: Ciarán Branagan (Down)
TV: TG4 (TBC)
Bet: Slaughtneil 1/5, Gaels 4/1, Draw 12/1
The fact their opponents, Cavan Gaels, tucked away five goals in last weekend’s semi-final replay win over Derrygonnelly has only heightened the need to make sure, as assistant boss John Joe Kearney puts it, “the door is firmly shut”.
“We were surprised by how much we gave Kilcar. You can’t ignore they have a number of county players in their squad, who took a lot of looking after, and they had a system of getting Patrick McBrearty on the ball and onto his left foot. You had Brendan Rogers, who doesn’t often get exposed, having his fill in marking him, but it seemed to be a lot of high balls that Cavan Gaels got their goals from, and we feel we would be fit to cope with high balls. Young Rogers has a bit of height.”
Cavan’s Paul O’Connor scored three goals, all coming from high balls into the square, and also set up the winning goal via the same route in the sixth minute of stoppage time at Clones last Sunday.
It’s safe to assume then that Slaughtneil can expect to be facing an aerial bombardment in the Athletic Grounds, but they have quality defenders, who normally concede around 0-12 per game.
“It (high ball) will probably be tried again,” said Kearney. “It is a good ploy, if it is played in right.
“There’s no use dropping it in in front of the forward, it needs to be dropping on top of his head and no full-back likes to see that coming in.
“They’ll probably have a wee shot at it again early on to see how it works, but we hope the door is firmly shut.”
At the other end of the pitch, the 2-17 Slaughtneil racked up against Kilcar was a lot more than they usually score, but forwards Cormac O’Doherty and Meehaul McGrath are now injured.
They will still be massive favourites to add to their already unprecedented trophy haul.
“We have an opportunity to do the ‘double treble’ of Ulster hurling, camogie and football titles back-to-back,” added Kearney.
“We haven’t done it yet and, after what I’ve seen from Cavan Gaels in the last two weeks, they don’t lie down, but I would think our players are not thinking about doubles or trebles, that it’s a game of football they want to win, rather than they could be the team that lets the club down by not winning this game.
“That will never cross their minds.
“They are fairly tuned in to what we are about and hopefully they will play with all the passion they generally show.”
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