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Rogers' award is perfect boost to Slaughtneil's All-Ireland mission

By John Campbell

Slaughtneil can lap up a significant triple boost as they prepare for what is a mouth-watering All-Ireland Club Football Championship semi-final against Dublin aristocrats St Vincent's.

The Derry and Ulster champions report a comparatively clean bill of health, they have not conceded a goal in their last eight games and full-back Brendan Rogers has just become the latest winner of the Quinn Building Products Ulster GAA Writers' Association monthly award.

It was in the 2002-03 campaign that Ballinderry became the last side from the Oak Leaf County to claim the All-Ireland Club title under the tutelage of Brian McIver and now Slaughtneil, with memories of their 2014 All-Ireland Club final defeat to Corofin still raw, are determined to bridge the gap in style and in the process do their county and province proud.

An Ulster player, though, will be doing his best to upset the Slaughtneil apple cart at the semi-final stage.

Joe Feeney, a former player with the Madden club just outside Armagh, is part of the powerful St Vincent's squad backboned by current Dublin star Diarmuid Connolly, former Dubs players Mossy Quinn and Ger Brennan and experienced Mayo forward Enda Varley.

Feeney was introduced as a substitute in St Vincent's record-equalling seventh Leinster title triumph over Offaly champions Rhode at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise on Sunday and is now pushing for a starting place against Slaughtneil.

The Ulster champions' management team of Mickey Moran and John Joe Kearney have already taken stock of St Vincent's success in Leinster and acknowledge that their team face a huge test in their bid to book a place in the final against Connacht champions Corofin or Munster kingpins Dr Crokes.

Kearney believes that the Slaughtneil defence, in which the award-winning Rogers has been superb of late, will face its stiffest test against what he believes is the "real quality" in the St Vincent's attack.

"While we have not given away any goals in eight games, we are not consumed with defensive tactics," pointed out Kearney. "The boys have no qualms about bombing forward when the opportunity arises and as a general rule they don't give anything away."

Full-back Rogers and centre-half-back Chrissy McKaigue are the central planks of the Slaughtneil defence and the former believes that the team's rearguard mechanism will be put to the test by St Vincent's.

"When you look at the way St Vincent's have come through in Leinster and the manner in which they have won games, you just know you are going in against a top-class side. They have quality all over the pitch," said the personable Rogers.

Indeed, the strapping 22-year-old goes into the semi-final bolstered by a personal twin bonus. Not only has he won the Writers' award but he has just graduated from Queen's University.

"It has been an eventful couple of weeks for me but I am certainly not complaining," smiled Rogers.

"Obviously as I play both hurling and football for the club it means I'm kept occupied but I have no problem mixing the two sports.

"They complement each other and preparing for one takes the mind off the other. In that respect, it is easy to combine both sports and the outcome this year - Ulster Club titles in each - was well worth the effort."

Belfast Telegraph

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