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Derry kingpins fired by dual aim

By Declan Bogue

For the second summer in succession, the 13 dual players of the Slaughtneil club have played more games than the number of weekends.

They begin their Ulster Football Championship defence with a preliminary round tie against Fermanagh champions Derrygonnelly Harps tomorrow (Owenbeg, throw-in 3.30pm).

As soon as that game is over, they will turn their attentions to the Ulster club hurling final seven days later.

Beyond the summer months, between football and hurling, they have played 49 games in 52 weeks.

Last year they racked up an astonishing 17 Championship games in 14 weeks. This season they had a spell of 11 Championship outings in nine weeks.

It's the sort of schedule that would break players and management, but according to full-back Brendan Rogers, Slaughtneil are blessed by the calibre of men running their teams.

In describing the work of football manager Mickey Moran and hurling boss Michael McShane, the software engineering student in Queen's explained: "I think they are focused on the players' welfare. They would know if they were trying to make players pick between the two codes, then they might not get the same enjoyment or commitment.

"It keeps us fit too. We were beat in the All-Ireland final last year and the hurlers had a league game eight days later."

He believes that switching between the two codes can be therapeutic.

"You are back out again and you forget all about it. You have another game to look forward to. It's like getting back on the horse again. That's one of the good things about it. We don't get to dwell too much on a Championship game."

At his recent maiden press conference, former Slaughtneil and now the new Derry manager Damian Barton mentioned in passing how the club's players were just managing their bodies from game to game, with no heavy training.

Rogers explains this in more detail, stating: "In a football week, the hurlers don't touch a hurl at all, you don't even have to go to training to watch, you are just with the footballers.

"The day after a hurling Championship game, all the footballers would usually go up to the Port (Portstewart) and go into the water, do a bit of a jog and stretch. Into the water, out of it again. Get showered, something to eat and get home again."

He continues: "You are expected to do your own stretching and if you need a physio, go and see one. Even if you need a rub, they would say to just go and get it. There are two or three physios around the club that are unbelievably dedicated the way they would do anything for you.

"The whole thing is to be fresh for Championship come Sunday. That's the be-all and end-all. Forget about training during the week, as long as you are fresh."

This week, Mickey Moran and his assistant John Joe Kearney will have dissected and delivered a session on Sunday's opponents, who are dealing with their own grief, having lost popular clubman Damian McGovern in an industrial accident a fortnight ago.

"They do a massive deal on the opposition teams," Rogers reveals about Moran and Kearney.

"The amount of stuff they go through, the videos and the analysis is completely unreal from what I have seen in any other manager."

And then from Monday, Cushendall will be on their mind and the chance of a first ever Ulster Club title in hurling, to go along with their breakthrough Ulster title in football last year.

A hectic schedule, but then, they are used to it.

ARMAGH legend Oisin McConville was last night inducted into the Gaelic Writers' Association Hall of Fame in a glittering ceremony at the Jackson Court Hotel in Dublin.

McConville is widely regarded as one of the greatest forwards ever to have played the game and was an integral part of Armagh's famous 2002 All-Ireland triumph.

During his Armagh career he also won seven Ulster Senior Championships, one National League and two All-Stars.

McConville is one of the most decorated club players in history, winning six All-Ireland Club titles and 10 Ulster Club titles with Crossmaglen Rangers.

McConville is joint manager of Crossmaglen and recently helped guide them to a staggering 19th Armagh title in 20 years.

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