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Slaughtneil full of festive cheer ahead of glory bid


By John Campbell

The perception that normal life is put on hold when a team reaches the concluding stages of an All-Ireland series is being downplayed by popular Slaughtneil keeper Antoin McMullan.

His team may be preparing to face Cork and Munster champions Nemo Rangers in the All-Ireland club football semi-final in the New Year, but the refreshingly candid McMullan obviously believes that all work and no play can make Jack a dull boy.

That's why, rather than cautiously awaiting the arrival of Christmas, he is ready to lay down a marker in terms of his team lapping up the festive celebrations.

"We'll be taking a few days off to enjoy Christmas," smiles McMullan. "We have had 36 players out training all year and every single one of them have played a part in getting us to where we are.

"We know that for maybe 35 years we did not win anything worthwhile but, with this present squad and our absolutely outstanding management, we feel we can go further.

"Mickey Moran and has backroom team make sure that no stone is left unturned and the spirit within the squad is just unbelievable."

McMullan admits that he has had his share of disappointments with the side, including injuries and competition for the No.1 shirt.

"I've been in and out of the team for a few years now, but to be honest every player has had the same issues that I have had, so I can't complain," he says.

"We have all learned to dig deep and grit our teeth. The success we have achieved over the past three years or so has helped to make up for the bad times but there is more to be achieved."

Manager Moran and his assistant John Joe Kearney have been mapping out plans for their team's assault on the All-Ireland club title - an accolade that has eluded them to date.

They reached the decider in 2014 only to fall to Galway and Connacht champions Corofin, while earlier this year they played second fiddle to Dr Crokes, and it's those two defeats in the annual showpiece fixture which is currently proving a driving force for the squad.

"We know what we have to do if we want to get over the line when we get to Croke Park again and we will be going at it hammer and tongs as soon as Christmas is over," insists McMullan.

"The fact that we have been in All-Ireland finals on a couple of occasions and lost those will be a major spur this time round. Obviously we are looking no further than Nemo Rangers because they are packed with experience and know-how.

"But I believe that the attitude of our players and the manner in which we will be prepared will stand to us when the pressure is on. This will be a massive challenge for us."

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