Slaughtneil: Mickey Moran's men ready to step up gear for semi clash
The Slaughtneil team and management believe they have already got what skipper Francis McEldowney describes as "the best possible preparation" for the forthcoming All Ireland club football championship.
The newly-crowned Ulster club champions have won their Derry and provincial championship trophies the hard way having come through a series of tough, tense games that have not only tested their skills but demanded major questions of their character.
It's perhaps just as well, though, that Mickey Moran's Slaughtneil are accustomed to dour battles as they will face Kerry and Munster champions Austin Stacks (Tralee) in the All Ireland semi-final.
When it is considered that the Kingdom's Kieran Donaghy, who will skipper his county next year, is the ace in the Tralee outfit's pack, it can be quickly seen that Slaughtneil will be rubbing shoulders with the elite on the weekend of February 14/15.
While the Seamus McFerran Cup has already been borne back to the foothills of the Sperrins amid scenes of unbridled jubilation, thoughts are already turning to the much bigger agenda that awaits in the early part of 2015.
"We have been taking one game at a time all year because that has been the philosophy of our manager Mickey Moran and to tell you the truth it's just as well that this has been our motto," said McEldowney.
"Every championship match we have played has been very hard, we have got nothing easy and you would have to say that our game against Omagh St Enda's on Sunday was just about the toughest of them all.
"But then this is the best possible preparation you could ask for in terms of the All Ireland Club championship where we will be going in along with the very best teams some of whom will have previous experience of the competition."
Slaughtneil's spirit, courage and commitment have seldom been more manifest than in Sunday's win over an Omagh side that had led by three points at three different stages of the game and had managed to restrict the Oak Leaf men to just one point in 26 minutes of first-half play.
Christopher Bradley's match-winning point in the second minute of injury-time is already enshrined as a landmark strike in the history of the GAA in Derry but the player himself is anxious that the entire squad should receive the plaudits for the club's most famous win.
"Our management has made the point that the boys who came on as substitutes played their part but so too did the lads who did not get to enjoy a bit of game time on Sunday," said Bradley. "We are all in this together and I think that it's this special bond which has stood to us all along the way."
Slaughtneil will take a short break before commencing a rigorous build-up to their All Ireland semi-final.
Not surprisingly, Derry county board officials are hoping that Slaughtneil's achievements to date can prove a precursor for better things for the county team.
Derry have not won the Ulster title since 1998 but even before Slaughtneil clinched their Ulster crown manager Brian McIver had expressed the hope that 2015 would hold promise for his side.
A number of Slaughtneil players are already in the thinking of the county boss although none of them will, if selected, be expected to commit until their club's involvement in the All Ireland series has been terminated.
Defender Chrissy McKaigue is of course already a first-choice Derry player and lined out in Sunday's Ulster club final only a few days after returning from assisting Ireland in the International Rules series against Australia.
Others who could well join him in the Derry squad next year are veteran midfield ace Patsy Bradley, forwards Gerald Bradley and Christopher Bradley and skipper McEldowney along with Karl McKaigue and perhaps even exciting 18-year-old Cormac O'Doherty who was a revelation in Sunday's club final.