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Slaughtneil will recharge ahead of All-Ireland tilt

By John Campbell

Christmas just cannot come soon enough for everyone connected with the all-conquering Slaughtneil club.

For the past three months, the south Derry outfit have rarely been out of the headlines as success followed success.

Indeed, few Ulster club teams in the recent history of the GAA have experienced the frenetic itinerary which Slaughtneil have undertaken in both major GAA codes this year.

The Derry senior football and hurling championship titles were collected while progress has been made at under-age level, culminating in the capture of the Ulster Club Minor hurling crown.

But even though the All-Ireland club football championship semi-final against Kerry and Munster champions Austin Stacks (Tralee) is now very much on the radar, Slaughtneil officials clearly welcome the fact that their players in all codes will now get the opportunity to catch their breath.

"Christmas is coming at the right time for us," smiles football team assistant manager and spokesman John Joe Kearney. "We seem to have been on the road forever but then that is the price you have to pay for success.

"We have a massive game on the horizon in February against Austin Stacks, the biggest in our club's history and we want to be ready. While 2014 has been simply unbelievable for us, the festive period will give us a chance to collect our thoughts."

Kearney and team boss Mickey Moran have ensured that celebrations since the Ulster club football title was won have been tempered and already plans have been formulated for what will be an intensive build-up to the All-Ireland semi-final.

"I don't think too many people would have given us a chance of making it to this stage but I suppose you could say that we have surprised even ourselves," muses Kearney. "We will be going in against an Austin Stacks team that includes the likes of Kerry's Kieran Donaghy and this gives you some idea of the kind of opposition we will be facing."

Slaughtneil's journey to the Ulster club title has enhanced their overall experience and tactical appreciation of what it takes to reach the higher echelons of club football.

"When we played Omagh St Enda's in the Ulster club final we let them come at us in swarms in the first half, which was the wrong policy. But when we went man to man in the second half, we rallied. Our boys played the shirts off their backs in that game and they are now even better players," insists Kearney.

Slaughtneil expect their big guns, such as Patsy Bradley, Chrissy McKaigue, Gerald Bradley, Christopher Bradley and Karl McKaigue, to again provide their inspiration as they prepare to launch "an all-out bid" to land All-Ireland glory.

"When you look at the calibre of sides that are still in the hunt for the All-Ireland club title you can see the enormity of the task that we face," reflects Kearney.

"However, in our all-out bid to land the big one we will stick with the three qualities that have taken us this far - heart, hard work and honesty. This has stood them in good stead and hopefully it will serve us well in the All Ireland semi-final."

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