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Cool hand Moran plots Slaughtneil glory charge

By John Campbell

Published 26/11/2016

Golden shot: Chrissy McKaigue believes Slaughtneil can make history tomorrow
Golden shot: Chrissy McKaigue believes Slaughtneil can make history tomorrow

Slaughtneil stand just sixty minutes away from a place in the annals of GAA history yet manager Mickey Moran remains in the shadows, an unobtrusive presence while retaining a firm hand on the tiller.

There is no passionate public rhetoric, no tub-thumping and no beating of drums as the south Derry club seek to become one of the first teams in the country to snap up provincial camogie, hurling and football titles in the same year.

But Moran's reticence and inherent shyness mask a steely resolve to see Slaughtneil established as a major footballing force capable of rubbing shoulders with the elite clubs.

And while Moran himself is quite happy to allow his assistant John Joe Kearney to undertake the necessary PR duties that accompany any meteoric sporting rise, long-serving defender Chrissy McKaigue, who skippered the hurlers to provincial glory last month and will underpin the defence in tomorrow's Ulster club football final against Kilcoo, is particularly anxious that Moran's attributes should be forcibly articulated.

"I suppose Mickey's biggest trait is that, as a club and a community, we can sometimes become a little bit too passionate and Mickey is just calm, cool, and collected about everything," pointed out McKaigue.

"He calms us down, he keeps us on a level path because sometimes in the past, we've probably let our discipline or our focus wane a wee bit and that has come back to bite us."

"In the last couple of years, we've been trying to keep a lid on things and just listen to our wise, old head because Mickey has been around and he's done it all before.

He added: "There's no doubt about it, what he has achieved and the model he has created for our club will leave a lasting legacy."

But while Moran's team are poised to inscribe their name into the history-books, Kilcoo's yearning for a first provincial title is such that they will pose a massive challenge to them tomorrow.

If names like McKaigue, Bradley and McGuigan dominate the Slaughtneil line-up, then the Branagans, Johnstons and Devlins are the clans which have helped to bring Kilcoo to the cusp of what would be their biggest triumph.

Two years ago Slaughtneil won the Ulster crown before going on to lose to Corofin in the All-Ireland club final, but assistant manager John Joe Kearney believes that the experience which the side has achieved will prove a solid buffer tomorrow.

"I think this Slaughtneil side has matured with some of the newer players fitting in seamlessly," says Kearney. "We know that Kilcoo will be bringing a great hunger to the table so we must be ready for this challenge."

Veteran Patsy Bradley and the emerging Padraig Cassidy form a durable midfield partnership for the Derry side while Kilcoo will be looking to James McClean and Felim McGreevy to impose themselves in the central area.

Up front, Slaughtneil will lean on Christopher Bradley, Sé McGuigan and Cormac O'Doherty to turn possession into scores although Kilcoo will bring their own brand of firepower into play via enterprising trio Ryan Johnston, Conor Laverty and Paul Devlin.

Kilcoo's resilience, staying power and spirit have been key factors in their progress to date yet the team appears to lack Slaughtneil's ability to vary tactics when the going gets tough.

At the outset of the Ulster Club series it was envisaged that Slaughtneil and Kilcoo would be the two teams who would come through to the final.

Now that this has come about, intrigue and speculation are rampant and the expectation is that 10,000 fans will be there to see the destination of the trophy decided.

Belfast Telegraph

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