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Rogers is eager for Slaughtneil to waltz off with All-Ireland Club crown

By Declan Bogue

For many Gaelic footballers, winter is the time for letting yourself go - unless you are a Slaughtneil man of course.

And in the most extreme example, Brendan Rogers - Slaughtneil's hurling full-forward and football full-back - spent the couple of weeks he did get off competing in Scór, winning medals for Irish dancing.

"That is downtime," the Queen's student chuckled. "The Scór is something I probably didn't need at this time of the year, but when your auntie asks you to do something, you do it.

"I've about 13 All-Ireland and four Worlds (titles) and couldn't tell you how many Ulsters."

So, Rogers has All-Ireland medals in dancing and in the Inter-pros with Ulster. Now he is targeting the Andy Merrigan Cup this Friday when Slaughtneil meet Dr Crokes in the All-Ireland Club final at Croke Park.

He reaches for a wonderful Ulster-Scots term to describe how Slaughtneil have come back from an All-Ireland final defeat to Corofin in 2015.

"We are a thran bunch, as the reputation proceeds," he said.

"I see that as a positive as that means you care. It's a traditional thing, you want to present yourself the best way possible and getting beat wasn't ideal.

"The old analogy of a fight, if you get beat then you want a rematch. That's the mentality around Slaughtneil all the time."

The 2015 run with Slaughtneil brought him major attention. Marking Kieran Donaghy out of the game on TV will do that.

Brian McIver brought him into the Derry squad and he completely bypassed a county under-age career. Within months, he was McIver's pick to man-mark Donegal's Michael Murphy in Championship football.

A bright and engaging, if slightly bashful, conversationalist, Rogers believes that no game taught him as much about football as that defeat to Corofin.

"I remember the final whistle and how disappointing it was," he recalled. "Coming back to the club that night, it was like a wake, I didn't want to talk.

"I was thinking back on that game and it makes me think about how to approach a game, manage myself and it has maybe made me a better player."

There is evidence of that in the fact that in the nine Championship matches they have played through Derry, Ulster and the All-Ireland series, they have enjoyed nine clean sheets.

"It's great. You'd go into the changing room and mention the clean sheet and the rest of them wouldn't be long in telling you they scored one on Tuesday night!" laughed Rogers.

"It's all good fun and you are never too long before being brought back down to earth. That's what makes you appreciate a clean sheet more."

The architect of the defence, and of the journey Slaughtneil have made as a footballing force, is Mickey Moran. Rogers admits nobody has exerted more influence on him as a player.

"It is amazing what he and his team bring," he said. "His knowledge is outstanding and you could listen to him all day about how a player or how a team plays.

"He leaves it short and sweet and it sticks in the head. It doesn't matter what age you are, or who you are - if he believes in you, then that's it."

Belfast Telegraph

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