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No resting on laurels for champions as Slaughtneil turn attentions to Nemo

 

By Declan Bogue

Five minutes have elapsed since the final whistle and Slaughtneil are Ulster champions once again, having defended their football ­title.

And two breaths into his ­post-match reaction, star full-back Brendan Rogers is ­already talking about the next one; Nemo Rangers, who ­sensationally ­dethroned Munster and ­All-Ireland champions Dr Crokes, in an All-Ireland semi-final in February.

"We certainly want to push on," he stated. "We play Nemo Rangers next. It will be another good test.

"They are a formidable test. We definitely have a long winter ahead of us as regards preparation."

Nursing a nasty bit of ­swelling around his right wrist, he will need to get it sorted pronto as he is needed on the hurling front also.

Asked to take a breath and tell us what this astonishing achievement means for the ­community, he answers: "Everybody now seems to understand the work that goes on in Slaughtneil.

"That's the way it should be. We're only a reflection of the work people put in. Thankfully we have something to celebrate tonight. Another special moment in the club's history."

As incredible as this feat was, there was an air of inevitability about the result from early on, after Shane McGuigan's superb goal coming from a counter-attack. As a result, there was little in the way of emotional scenes, crying, hugging and dancing out on the pitch.

Assistant manager John Joe Kearney has a theory on that; "Well, in a sense I suppose they have got that used to winning that it has gone that way.

"The boys that were then in the first two Derry Championships that we won. You'll notice in the last couple, the crowd that goes back to the hall has tailed off."

He continued: "But there is great support in the area and there is a great buzz.

"Slaughtneil is talked about now as, if a stranger says he is from somewhere near Maghera, he is liable to be asked if he is from a place called Slaughtneil.

"It has put it on the map now, no two ways about it."

As for Cavan Gaels ­manager Jason O'Reilly, he has his thoughts on how far the ­Derrymen could reach, ­commenting afterwards, "You are probably looking at the All-Ireland champions there if they keep their heads.

"They play football the way football should be played."

Slaughtneil may be more likely to win an All-Ireland title in football, rather than hurling. But having to spread yourself this thin must be extremely mentally challenging.

And yet they show no signs of letting up.

Kearney stated, "We heard in the second half that Nemo had beaten them," about their next opponents.

"I suppose Corofin is through now too and they will still be a team to be reckoned with if it is them that gets through."

Rogers recalls the Nemo teams of last decade.

"I've seen them before growing up," he said. "They have a long history of performing well at All-Ireland club level. We know beating [Dr] Crokes is a massive test for any team. We really cannot underestimate them. We will put in the work over the winter period."

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