Referee Deegan was conned into decisive first-half dismissal, blasts Kearney
Slaughtneil joint manager John Joe Kearney feels that referee Maurice Deegan was conned into issuing a red card to midfielder Padraig Cassidy.
The skipper was dismissed in the fourth minute of added time in the first half for striking Kieran O'Leary after the Dr Crokes man had led with his knee. It left the Derry side understaffed and out of shape for the rest of the contest.
Highlighting O'Leary's reaction to the strike from Cassidy, Kearney said: "He was under pressure and an innocuous flick of the hand was all he did and young O'Leary made a meal of it.
"If he had been hurt he wouldn't have been able to pick himself up and go out and play for the hour. You can't argue that he (Cassidy) did something he shouldn't have and I'm sure he'll regret it for many a day, but it was an innocuous flick with the back of the hand. Many others would have got up and got on with the game.
"As I see it there was an opportunity for getting somebody sent off and I have no regrets about saying that. We lost our attacking midfielder and I'm sure he's hurting too."
Kearney said they had come to Croke Park looking to bury the ghosts of their defeat here two years ago to Corofin, and were well on their way to doing so.
"We didn't show up the last time we came here and we came to show what we could do," said Kearney. "For the first 25-30 minutes we did that, but the sending off before half-time was the changing of the game. If you lose your attacking midfielder, it sets you back and it set us back."
Dr Crokes selector Harry O'Neill praised the composure of his players, who managed to see the game out expertly with their numerical advantage.
"We were four points down midway through the first half. Slaughtneil are the experts at holding on to that sort of stuff," he said.
"Our lads picked it up, we probably didn't get a great start, but we got a goal and a point at the right time. Daithí Casey made a great run through and slipped it to Colm (Cooper) for a goal and then he kicked a great point after that himself.
"It got us back into the game again and it gave us something to play for. I think we just showed a lot of character after that. They make you work hard, but thankfully our lads worked hard as well.
"They had to dig very, very deep even though Slaughtneil were down to 14 men. We knew that was the calibre of team we were going to come up against and we knew we would have to fight until the bitter end to win that game."
As for Colm Cooper, O'Neill added: "I was in charge of the Crokes 17 years ago in 2000 - and that was the first time that Colm came on to play with the Crokes, and he played in the County Championship that year. All five Coopers played in the same team."
It's been some road, but Cooper finally got his hands on the Andy Merrigan Cup.