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Relief as Slaughtneil assistant John Joe revels in an 'unbelievable' coup

By John Campbell

Published 28/11/2016

Hunted down: Kilcoo’s Niall Branagan moves in to tackle Slaughtneil’s Se McGuigan during yesterday’s Ulster Club showdown in Armagh
Hunted down: Kilcoo’s Niall Branagan moves in to tackle Slaughtneil’s Se McGuigan during yesterday’s Ulster Club showdown in Armagh

Relief as much as delight consumed Slaughtneil assistant manager John Joe Kearney as he took stock of the greatest occasion in his club's history.

"It's just unbelievable," Kearney gasped.

"We knew it was not going to be easy because Kilcoo have reached this stage before and we were aware that they were desperate to win an Ulster title. We know what it is like having been there ourselves and we expected them to give us a hard, hard game and that's how it turned out.

"They kept us scoreless for the best part of 20 minutes after the break and that was worrying. Fortunately we had the pedigree and the composure to get the scores that counted in the end and we are very relieved."

Slaughtneil's ability to minimise errors and protect possession proved key elements in their game-plan and Kearney believes that the team's growing maturity surfaced again in this respect.

"They have shown that they know how to keep the ball, how to be patient. For the most part they used it well especially in those crucial closing stages," he said.

"Sometimes it can be a wee bit scary looking along the touchline watching this because you can be prone to a breakdown when in possession but I think in this game the boys proved that they are good in this particular aspect of play."

And he paid tribute to Kilcoo's fighting spirit and energy, especially after the break.

"They certainly stuck at it and a few of their shots did not find the target which was fortunate for us," said Kearney,

Kilcoo manager Paul McIver was in no doubt as to just what marked the real turning point in the contest.

"We were level at 0-5 each coming up to half-time but in the five minutes before the break we conceded four points and that left us with a lot to do in the second half," he said.

"The lads battled very hard but you have to give credit to Slaughtneil for the way they played. They closed the game out even though we managed to come back at them and stayed the course.

"Obviously it's very disappointing for us to have to take this blow but I know the boys will be back. Slaughtneil have benefited from the experience they have gained."

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