Super Slaughtneil stride into history books
Kilcoo 0-9 Slaughtneil 0-12
Hail the history makers! Slaughtneil carved out a special niche for themselves in the annals of Ulster GAA when they strode majestically to the Ulster Club Senior Football title for the second time in three years at a throbbing Athletic Grounds, Armagh yesterday.
In doing so, they completed a unique treble coup having already won the Ulster hurling and camogie titles this year, thus becoming the first club to achieve the feat.
In what proved a truly memorable occasion for Slaughtneil, their fusion of skill, commitment, pride and resilience proved instrumental in ultimately defusing the feisty challenge of a Kilcoo side that battled right to the end.
For Slaughtneil, this was indeed a trip into a sporting paradise. They showed composure when it was needed, took their scoring chances when they came along and in Brendan Rogers and Shane McGuigan they provided two truly outstanding performers.
Rogers was immense both in defence and attack while McGuigan's five sublime points underpinned the team's performance.
Slaughtneil played with belief, poise and discipline throughout, maintaining their shape even when Kilcoo enjoyed limited spells of dominance and in the end cemented their famed staying power and hunger by surging over the line in style.
Mickey Moran's side started strongly, burrowing along both wings as they made incisions in the Kilcoo defence.
Patsy Bradley and Padraig Cassidy gained a foothold in midfield and from there the Derry champions pressed forward to keep Paul McIver's men on the back foot.
McGuigan (2) and Paul Bradley eased Slaughtneil into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after just seven minutes with Paul Devlin converting a Kilcoo free.
But the Down side began to find their rhythm with Ryan Johnston proving a thorn in the Slaughtneil defence and when he brought the sides level at 0-3 each with a fine opportunist point in the 15th minute, the pendulum appeared to be swinging in Kilcoo's favour.
However, the surging pace of Rogers, the creative flair of Paul Bradley and the opportunism of McGuigan helped Slaughtneil move up a gear.
It was after Darryl Branagan highlighted Kilcoo's resilience with a 24th-minute point that Slaughtneil proceeded to take a stranglehold on the closing phase of the first half.
Christopher Bradley provided the impetus for the sojourn in the driving seat by whipping over a 27th-minute point and it was the precursor to a mini-blitz that saw Chrissy McKaigue, McGuigan and Cormac O'Doherty to avail of chances that came their way.
Their marksmanship saw Slaughtneil enjoy the cushion of a 0-9 to 0-5 interval lead that clearly bolstered their confidence for the second period.
But their authority was diminished in the opening minutes of the second half when the lively Ceilum Doherty, Darragh O'Hanlon and Martin Devlin potted points to leave Kilcoo just one point adrift at 0-9 to 0-8.
That, though, was to be Kilcoo's final flirtation with victory.
Slowly and methodically, Slaughtneil tightened their grip further around the middle, their defence remained on red alert and McGuigan maintained his unerring accuracy in the crucial closing phase.
The loss of midfield ace James McClean to a black card was undoubtedly a blow to Kilcoo coming as it did at a crucial stage of the second half when they were striving desperately to retain a toe-hold in the game.
Nor were their prospects helped when Slaughtneil goalkeeper Antoin McMullan pulled off a superb full-length save to prevent what looked like being a certain goal.
Deep in added time, Paul Bradley applied the coup de grace by powering over a superb point from a difficult angle to spark rapturous celebrations among the Slaughtneil faithful - and perhaps lay the precursor to possible All-Ireland club glory in the future.
Slaughtneil: A McMullan; F McEldowney, B Rogers 0-2, K McKaigue; P McNeill, C McKaigue 0-1, K Feeney; Patsy Bradley, P Cassidy; Shane McGuigan 0-5 (2f), Paul Bradley 0-2 (1f), M McGrath; C Bradley 0-1, Se McGuigan, C O'Doherty 0-1.
Subs: R Bradley for McGrath (39), G Bradley for Se McGuigan (45), B Cassidy for O'Doherty (57).
Yellow cards: R Bradley (42), Feeney (62).
Kilcoo: N Kane; E Branagan, D O'Hanlon 0-2 (2f), N Branagan; D Branagan 0-1, Aidan Branagan, Aaron Branagan; J McClean, J J McLoughlin; C Doherty 0-3, A Morgan, R Johnston 0-1; M Devlin 0-1, P Devlin 0-1 (f), C Laverty.
Subs: F McGreevy for McClean (Black card 39), D Kane for McLoughlin (45), N McEvoy for Aidan Branagan (60).
Yellow card: Aidan Branagan (10), McLoughlin (42), Darryl Branagan (52).
Ref: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)