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John Joe Kearney: All-Ireland history bid won't faze Slaughtneil

By Declan Bogue

Next Tuesday could be the greatest day in the history of Robert Emmets, Slaughtneil.

The tiny club from the slopes of Carntogher Mountain stand just 60 minutes away from being crowned the All-Ireland club champions.

They won only their second Derry Championship in 2014, and went all the way to beat Cavan Gaels, Clontibret and then favourites Omagh St Enda's in the Ulster club campaign.

February 15 was a memorable day for them as they once again overcame all the odds to beat Kerry and Munster champions Austin Stacks - Kieran Donaghy and all - to book their place in the St Patrick's Day showpiece against Galway's Corofin.

However, there is no danger of them getting caught up in the sense of the occasion, according to joint-manager John Joe Kearney.

"We have kept it low-key all year deliberately," he said at last night's press conference. "There would be plenty of time for celebrating if we came back on March 17 with the cup. They are a grounded lot."

However, while Slaughtneil are new to the big time, that's only in their maroon jerseys, as Kearney explains: "Quite a lot of them have played in Croke Park, a lot of the young boys have played for St Pat's in Maghera in the Hogan.

"Patsy (Bradley) and Chrissy, Karl (McKaigue) has played, Francis McEldowney has played in Croke Park, so that's half the team have been out in Croke Park before, I don't think they will be overawed," he said.

"It's a bonus for the lads who have never played there with the county. It's every lad's dream to get to Croke Park and play a game of football. It's just another big field."

Kearney is of proper Slaughtneil stock. In 1965 he made a Derry minor squad, and back then his club was Granahan, a combination of Slaughtneil and Swatragh uniting under the parish name.

Four years later he was an integral part of the first Slaughtneil side to reach a county final, being beaten by traditional kingpins Bellaghy.

Things have changed beyond recognition from those times, but Kearney is under no doubt who the driving force of this current run is - his co-manager.

"The difference has been Mickey Moran," he says emphatically.

"He has given an extra dimension this year with his coaching. He has a team who know what they are doing, they don't panic under pressure and so far it has worked.

"We mightn't have beaten any teams by huge margins, but we have done enough to win. We are hard to beat."

One of their key strengths is their ability to go to the very end, which is why the loss of one player after a challenge in the All-Ireland semi-final could be a source of hurt.

The average adult takes eight to 10 weeks to heal from a broken clavicle bone, more commonly known as the collar-bone.

But Christopher 'Sammy' Bradley, the man who has pulled games out of the bag for Slaughtneil all season in the run to the All-Ireland club final, does not have that luxury.

Some well-connected men in the club have been able to get Bradley into an oxygen tent in Ipswich, which has the potential to heal the bone faster.

"Our opinion from all the medical people at the minute is that he could possibly be healed. But it's only a slight possibility," confirmed Kearney.

However, he also hinted that Bradley could still play some part.

"It has been a month. Under normal circumstances, it's six to eight weeks. Now, we are putting him into a tent which should speed up the healing process a bit.

"But we are not bluffing ourselves. We are going to have to start without him."

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