SFC Ulster club quarter-final: Darren Hughes fires Scotstown past tough Slaughtneil
Slaughtneil 0-15 Scotstown1-15
A distinctly eighties feel to Clones yesterday. There was Scotstown, stoically making their way to an Ulster club semi-final, and two teams going at it without sweepers, cynicism and gamesmanship.
The good people of Slaughtneil will not be encouraged by any meagre measure that their team played their part in a November classic, but they left Clones proud that for the second Sunday in a row, their clubmen threw everything they could at what appeared an impossible challenge, having the dignity of dying with their boots on.
Over the winter, however, they will ruminate on their lack of cynicism. At the start of this game, Scotstown's Darren Hughes made his way to the edge of the opposition's square, to face off against one of the most promising full-backs in the game in Brendan Rodgers.
But promise is one thing. When you are left one-on-one inside against such a forceful and skilful man as Hughes, you are at the mercy of the ball coming in from further out the field.
Hughes already had two points from play in the third and 15th minute, before he went to town on Rodgers in a two-minute salvo beginning on 23 minutes.
A turnover forced by Scotstown, followed by a quick ball inside left Rodgers exposed and Hughes lobbed over a point.
In the next play, Hughes punched over another point, before the hammer blow. The ball found its' way again to Hughes, he burned Rodgers and a despairing Patsy Bradley hadn't the speed to get back in time. Hughes drilled his shot along the ground to put Scotstown six points up at half-time, 1-9 to 0-8.
"It was a big concern to us," replied Slaughtneil selector John Joe Kearney when asked about Hughes' tour-de-force.
"We talked about putting somebody in front of him. But then it was going to take away from ourselves going forward, so we decided against it."
Despite hitting four wides early in the second half, Slaughtneil had sufficient courage to nail six points in 10 minutes to leave a single point in it. Young substitute Shane McGuigan had come on to torture marker Padraig Keenan.
It was his score that brought the margin to a point. With Scotstown minds becoming scrambled, Rory Beggan's pass was cut out by Ronan Bradley. A quick pass through Christopher Bradley later and McGuigan's double-jink gave him enough room to slice over a point from his left foot.
Composure told in the end, however. Paul Sherlock made a raid and was fouled, with Conor McCarthy converting the free. A free kick that Beggan advanced to take was instead worked short when Slaughtneil tuned out momentarily that ended with Oran Heaphey pointing.
The final score arrived with Hughes being upended by Rodgers, against McCarthy the man with his smooth kicking action splitting the posts.
"It came down to hunger in the last five or ten minutes, and to be honest, maybe the hurling final going to extra-time last weekend done us a power of good last week," said Scotstown manager Mattie McGleenan.
Scotstown look equipped to do something big this year.
Next up however, is a meeting with Trillick on November 15th, with all the baggage that Monaghan-Tyrone clashes bring.
It will be feisty.
SLAUGHTNEIL: A McMullan; F McEldowney (C), B Rodgers, K McKaigue; P McNeill, C McKaigue, B McGuigan; Patsy Bradley, P Cassidy; P Kelly, Paul Bradley 0-8, 7f, R Bradley 0-1; C Bradley 0-3, S McGuigan 0-1, S Cassidy. Subs: Shane McGuigan 0-2, for P Kelly (35m), M McGrath for Patsy Bradley (39m)
SCOTSTOWN: R Beggan 0-2, 1f, 1x'45'; D McArdle, E Caulfield, P Sherlock; F McPhillips, K Hughes, J Turley; P Keenan, K Hughes; S Carey 0-2, 2f, D Morgan, R McKenna; C McCarthy 0-5, 4f, 0-1 sideline, D Hughes 1-4, O Heaphey 0-2. Subs: B McGinnity for McKenna (43m), B Boylan for F McPhillips (52m).
Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down)