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Cormac O'Doherty demanding respect for Slaughtneil

Take notice: Cormac O’Doherty says Slaughtneil don’t get credit
Take notice: Cormac O’Doherty says Slaughtneil don’t get credit
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

After winning their third Ulster Club Hurling title in four years, the Slaughtneil players were able to properly celebrate it for the first time.

In previous triumphs, they had to temper celebrations. After winning their first against Loughgiel in 2016, the considerable player crossover meant that many were forced back into action seven days later in the Football Championship against Derrygonnelly.

A year later, having beaten Ballygalget, they were out again just six days following that triumph, against Omagh St Enda's in football.

The five weeks they had together this time once their footballers were beaten by Glen in the Derry Championship has clearly been put to good use as Slaughtneil produced their most complete hurling display to humble Dunloy 1-15 to 0-10 in Sunday's decider.

The goal came from Cormac O'Doherty, who won a penalty after being taken down by Paul Shiels. He rifled home to put it beyond the Antrim champions.

He revealed that they are fuelled by a perceived snobbery towards their hurling team.

"Every year, people have been saying that we are a football team playing hurling," said O'Doherty, a key figure in both codes.

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"We haven't got the respect we deserve. That's three Ulster titles in four years. It's not a bad team that does that and it's not a group of bullies either.

"We are a damn good hurling team and you saw glimpses of it, just how good a hurling team we can be when we play."

In 2016, the outpouring of joy that greeted their first Four Seasons Cup was unbridled, the emotions perhaps ramped up by the then-recent funeral of Thomas Cassidy, father of players on the panel and the man who did more than most to grow the sport within the club.

They say you win your first Championship for the club and the ones after are for the players, something O'Doherty believes.

"You take every title on its merits. Loughgiel and the first time we won, we were the first Derry team that had ever won it," he explained.

"There was a lot of circumstances around that and it was a great victory for the club and the players personally. You saw what it meant to us.

"But here, to scale back to the heights of where we know we can be and where we think we belong, it is sweet. And we have been written off by everybody probably since Ballycran last year. It's definitely sweet.

"Regardless of the football, we have proved we can do both at the one time and hopefully next year we will be battling again on both fronts for county titles."

Slaughtneil will not have to wait as long as they did in previous years before their All-Ireland semi-final. It is pencilled in for the first weekend in January due to the fixtures calendar being tightened.

They will meet whoever wins the Leinster Championship, which is at the semi-final stage now with St Martin's (Wexford) facing Ballyhale Shamrocks of Kilkenny and Carlow's St Mullin's coming up against Rathdowney-Errill of Laois. Both games are set for a decision this weekend.

What can Slaughtneil achieve after previous semi-final defeats to Cuala and Na Piarsaigh? O'Doherty is bullish.

"That's an ambitious group of players. We have been to two All-Ireland semi-finals and we haven't won one yet," he says.

"That is the ultimate goal and we will get over this week, enjoy this week and what is another momentous day for our club and get the focus on that All-Ireland semi-final."

O'Doherty himself looks a physical embodiment of Slaughtneil this season. Trimmed down and quicker across the ground, he cites the hunger within the group to achieve more as the motivating factor.

"(I'm) cooking myself now!" he laughed.

"It's the simple things. It all comes back to the hunger. You make all those wee sacrifices yourself and it's paying off for us."

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