Slaughtneil (Derry) 1-15 Cavan Gaels (Cavan) 0-10: Cavan Gaels manager Jason Reilly declared Slaughtneil as All-Ireland champions in waiting after they dismantled his side in the Athletic Grounds.
The history-making, trophy-winning Derry club were back in business against yesterday, Shane McGuigan scoring 1-6, to land a third AIB Ulster club SFC title in four years.
It also completed an unprecedented ‘double treble’ of back-to-back Ulster titles in hurling, camogie and football.
“Hats off to my lads, they have worked so hard all year and done brilliant to get here, but Slaughtneil are a formidable side,” admitted Reilly.
“Maybe they are even better than we already thought they were.
“I’d say you’re looking at the next All-Ireland champions there.” Their next opponents, Munster champions Nemo Rangers, may have something to say about that but certainly within Ulster these days, Slaughtneil have no equals and this latest victory was as routine as the scoreline suggests.
The fact it was achieved without three regular starting forwards through injury – Meehaul McGrath, Cormac O’Doherty and Paul Bradley – says much about their strength in depth.
Brian Cassidy made his first senior championship start in an Ulster final and came up trumps with two second-half points but it was Shane McGuigan’s scores that made the real difference.
Cavan Gaels, in an Ulster final for the first time in 40 years, only trailed by 0-7 to 0-4 at the break but Slaughtneil killed them with an unanswered 1-3 in seven minutes minutes after half time.
They wasted a lot of chances in the first half – they finished the game with a conversion rate of 1-15 from 25 shots – but still led 0-6 to 0-1 after 26 minutes including three points in a row from Shane McGuigan, who scored off either foot.
Christopher Bradley and Ronan Bradley also hit points to stretch their lead.
Cavan were big underdogs and started slowly.
Martin Dunne’s ‘45’, after Antoin McMullan blocked Paul O’Connor’s low shot, was their only score for most of the opening half.
They struggled for scores. O’Connor, who hit three goals in last week’s semi-final replay win over Derrygonnelly, was well held by Rogers with Karl McKaigue keeping Seanie Johnston scoreless from play over the afternoon.
Cavan did rally slightly before the interval with three of the last four scores.
Johnston hit a free off his weaker left foot and Dunne hit their first from play in the game in the 29th minute.
Stephen Murray’s point on the run left them trailing by a very manageable three points at half time.
Slaughtneil have made a name for themselves as a moving, third-quarter team and so it proved again and within a devastating seven-minute spell after the break completely put the game to bed.
Chrissy and Karl McKaigue and Brendan Rogers took turns at surging forward from the back and their markers weren’t able to track their runs.
Chrissy McKaigue showed great leadership to settle any half-time concerns with a point two minutes after the restart.
Brian Cassidy and Ronan Bradley tagged on further points before a brilliant run from Rogers teed up Shane McGuigan for the only goal of the game.
He gathered Rogers’ pass and charged for the near post, slotting the ball low past Ciaran Flynn in the 37th minute.
From six attacks, Slaughtneil had bagged 1-3 which was better conversion rate than the opening half.
Cavan Gaels were unbeaten all season in league and championship up until this point and tried hard to find a route back into the game.
They briefly managed it with four points in a row, two Johnston frees plus points from Dunne and Niall Smith.
A loose pass, however, halted their momentum as they chased a fifth in succession.
On the counter-attack Slaughtneil went down the field and scored through their in-form forward Shane McGuigan, a left-footed beauty and it was game, set and match to the defending champs.
It completely took the wind out of Cavan’s sails and although Niall Murray got a point straight after wards in the 47th minute, they only managed one more point for the rest of the game.
Christopher Bradley had the final say with two late points to wrap up another satisfying afternoon for Slaughtneil.
Scorers for Slaughtneil – Shane McGuigan 1-6 (2f), C Bradley 0-3 (1f), R Bradley, B Cassidy 0-2 each, C McKaigue, Se McGuigan 0-1 each
Scorers for Cavan Gaels – M Dunne 0-4 (one ‘45’), S Johnston 0-3 (3f), N Murray, S Murray, N Smith 0-1 each
A McMullan; P McNeill, B Rogers, K McKaigue; F McEldowney, C McKaigue, K Feeney; P Bradley, P Cassidy; R Bradley, Shane McGuigan, G Bradley; C Bradley, Se McGuigan, B Cassidy Subs: B McGuigan for G Bradley (49), P Kearney for McEldowney (52, BC), P McGuigan for R Bradley (57)
C Flynn; L Fortune, N Murray, K Meehan; S Murray, B Fortune, L Murphy; P Grahan, R Maloney-Derham; N Smith, M Lyng, D Sexton; P O’Connor, S Johnston, M Dunne Subs: D Meehan for P Graham (HT)
Ciaran Branagan (Down)
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved