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Kearney absence could act as a fillip

By John Campbell

When Peadar Kearney booked a three-week holiday to New Zealand, he little dreamt that he would be missing out on the biggest game in Slaughtneil's history.

But the talented dual player will be conspicuous by his absence when the Derry champions go head to head with Tyrone title-holders Omagh St Enda's at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh, on Sunday in the Ulster senior club championship final.

Instead of being in the thick of the action as he was up until his team's win over Cavan Gaels in the Ulster club quarter-final, Kearney will be keeping abreast of proceedings via social media from the other side of the world.

Slaughtneil assistant manager John Joe Kearney reveals: "Peadar would certainly have started for us had he been here and when he knew there was a possibility we might make it into the Ulster final, he tried to cancel his holiday but that would have incurred a heavy penalty, I believe, so he had to go ahead.

"He is one of about half-a-dozen dual players who have given their all for the club this year and I know the lads are all gutted that he will be missing out on playing his part in this one.

"But that has just made them even more determined to do the club proud and bring home the trophy."

The contribution of Slaughtneil's dual corps to the club's success throughout this year has indeed been immense.

Manager Mickey Moran and his assistant Kearney have carefully monitored the hectic journey which these players in particular have undertaken and are now left to marvel at their rigid commitment and stunning self-sacrifice.

"When you look at these boys -Chrissy McKaigue, Gerald Bradley, Cormac O'Doherty, Sean McGuigan, Karl McKaigue and Brendan Rogers, along with Peadar - you just have to stand back in admiration," says John Joe Kearney.

"They have won Derry football and hurling championship honours this year and this shows you the calibre of players we have.

"This of course does not guarantee us anything for Sunday but it certainly helps to keep our supporters' hopes high."

Scarcely had Chrissy McKaigue touched down following a 23-hour flight from Australia where he played in Saturday's International Rules Test than he was immersing himself fully in Slaughtneil's preparations for Sunday's mouth-watering showdown.

"Chrissy has been a guiding light for us at centre-half-back," states assistant boss Kearney.

"He leads by example and the other boys are very happy to respond to his encouragement.

"He takes a positive stance in every game he plays and I feel that he will have a very important part to play for us on Sunday.

"All the players have worked so hard to get us this far and if the dual players tend to be singled out by some for that little extra bit of praise, then it is fully deserved in my opinion.

"We just hope that we can put the icing on the cake by getting our hands on the Seamus McFerran Cup."

Top Ulster team trainer Martin McElkennon has been approached to join Rory Gallagher's management team in Donegal.

Tyrone native McElkennon, a father of four, worked with the Cavan, Meath, Monaghan, Fermanagh and Derry senior teams as well as the Tyrone minor squad for a 16-year spell before deciding to take a break two years ago.

Now he could find himself confronted by a new challenge as Gallagher steps up his preparations for the 2015 season. It is understood he is particularly keen to avail of McElkennon's vast experience in the realm of fitness and conditioning.

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