We can get even better, insists boss McShane
Slaughtneil hurling manager Michael McShane wore a club training top that bore some discreet writing that proclaimed Slaughtneil as the Ulster football, hurling and camogie champions of 2016, as he spoke to the press following their successful defence of the provincial crown.
And it was that self-esteem that his players brought to the game. They are no longer trying to get over lines, smash glass ceilings or cast monkeys off backs, instead they are a team trying to fulfil their ability and seeing where that takes them.
“It’s a case of job done. We struggled at the start of the game, again, to get up to the pace, but that’s maybe taking a bit from Ballygalget, they were very, very physical and very fit and strong. They were winning more breaking balls and 50-50s than us,” he explained.
On Sean McGuigan’s first half goal, he continued: “We were glad to get the goal, that gave us a wee bit of breathing space, that seemed to settle everybody. At half-time we were able to say to the lads: ‘Look, we really need to kick on here, we need more’.”
There will be concerns about Sean Cassidy, who had to be helped off the pitch on a stretcher in the middle of the second half but overall, McShane got the kind of performance that champions are expected to deliver - authoritative, calm, assured.
“In the changing room at half-time with these guys, there’s never any panic, whether you’re behind or in front, they just know what they have to do and they go out and do it,” he said.
“It wasn’t our best performance, I don’t think we played our best hurling in the semi-final against Dunloy either, but we’re still Ulster champions. That’s a nice way to be — there’s still room for improvement.”
While acknowledging that his own charges have a bit of a way to go in their development, Ballygalget manager Paddy Monan couldn’t hide his admiration of the victors.
“Slaughtneil are unbelievable lads,” he exhaled. “Their fitness levels are phenomenal. Their hurling is phenomenal.”