Cruise control for Loughgiel but tougher test lies in store
Ulster SHC semi-final: Ballygalget 0-9 Loughgiel 1-25
The chasm-wide gap that existed between his side and Down champions Ballygalget in this one-sided Ulster senior club hurling championship semi-final at Maghera yesterday merely serves to put Loughgiel manager Johnny Campbell even more on guard for an alluring final meeting with Slaughtneil.
Former player Campbell, now in his first season at the helm of operations, is acutely aware that a much more demanding assignment awaits his fired-up outfit.
"I thought my boys met the challenge of Ballygalget well but Slaughtneil will be a massive, massive test for us," said Campbell.
"They have been to the fore for the past four years now and they will feel they should have won an Ulster title or two by now. I'm just hoping that it's not at our expense the next day."
"It will undoubtedly be a tough challenge for us, but at the same time it's one that we relish."
At half-time yesterday, Loughgiel already had one foot in the decider.
By then, man of the match Maol Connolly had set about stockpiling the 11 points that underpinned his team's victory and with Liam Watson, Eddie McCloskey and Brendan McCarry lending fine support, the Antrim champions deserved their 0-15 to 0-8 advantage.
Ballygalget's bright opening proved nothing more than a false dawn, their early brace of points submerged when Loughgiel launched a concerted scoring blitz between the seventh and 13th minutes that saw them go 0-6 to 0-3 ahead before Connolly brought his first-half tally to five as Loughgiel tightened their grip.
Just how pronounced their dominance was in the second half is reflected in the fact that Ballygalget managed just a solitary point - and even that came from a free.
In contrast, Loughgiel virtually scored at will, Connolly and McCarry in the vanguard of a robust cavalry charge that had the Ballygalget defence at sixes and sevens.
Any frail hopes of a Ballygalget revival were buried in the 39th minute when McCarry roared through to land the only goal of the game, and thereafter Loughgiel cemented their advantage with a further battery of points that left Ballygalget sagging against the ropes, their woes compounded when defender James McGrath was red-carded in the 60th minute.
For Loughgiel, though, the real hard work is only about to begin.
"The further the level you go up, the more it takes the team ethic rather than individual brilliance to bring you success, and that's why we need to be able to show an even more competitive edge against Slaughtneil," added manager Campbell.
"We have a big panel and everyone is pushing for a place so nothing can be taken for granted in terms of selection.
"The boys are all aware of that."
Loughgiel: D D Quinn; P Gillan, N McGarry, R McCloskey; J Campbell, T McCloskey, T Coyle; M McFadden 0-2, D McMullan; M Connolly 0-11 (3 '45's', 4f), E McCloskey 0-2, D McKinley 0-1; B McCarry 1-4, L Watson 0-4, S Casey. Subs: D McCloskey for Casey (47), J Scullion for McCarry (47), B McAuley 0-1 for McFadden (50), D Laverty for Watson (51), O McFadden for Gillan (55). Yellow card: McFadden (18).
Ballygaalget: Graham Clarke; J Smyth, Gabriel Clarke, M Fisher; J McGrath, E Clarke, B Toner; J McManus, J Doran 0-1; G Roddy, D McManus, C Bailie 0-1; G Johnston 0-3 (2f), B Byers, C Coulter 0-4 (3f). Subs: P McManus for Smyth (33), S Bailie for Byers (35), E Coulter for Gabriel Clarke, G Dynes for Roddy (both 45), A Doran for J Doran (48). Blood sub: K McGreevey for Johnston (61). Yellow cards: J Doran (39), McGrath (45), D McManus (60). Red card: McGrath (61).
Referee: Jason McAndrew (Monaghan).