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Slaughtneil are the new Crossmaglen, says Crozier

Slaughtneil 0-10 Omagh St Enda's 0-08

By Declan Bogue

There is no greater compliment in the modern era of Ulster Club football than to have comparisons with Crossmaglen flung in your direction, and that's exactly what Paddy Crozier gave Slaughtneil after they edged out his Omagh St Enda's team in clinical, cold fashion at a gusty Celtic Park.

"They're the new Crossmaglen," said Crozier, who managed a couple of the Slaughtneil players while Derry boss at the tail end of the last decade.

"They've taken over the mantle from Crossmaglen, there's no telling where this team will go."

After a bruising hurling club final victory last Sunday, Slaughtneil were forced out for another bout of action six days on and once again in a tight situation, they leaned on all their hard-won experience to make it to an Ulster semi-final and keep alive their audacious hopes of completing two consecutive trebles of provincial football, hurling and camogie Championships.

A pleased but as ever unflappable Slaughtneil assistant manager John Joe Kearney said afterwards: "There is a lot of character in that team, there's no two ways about it.

"We're a long way off an Ulster final yet, we still have to meet somebody who'll give us a hard game. There's a bit of a break for the footballers now as regards hurling being on the back foot, which gives us a chance to keep the players in better shape."

While the dreadful conditions led to a rash of wides from both sides, the overall skill levels were of the highest calibre.

Slaughtneil may have hit 10 first-half wides but their handling and general link-up play were irresistible.

They went 0-4 to 0-0 up after 13 minutes, gaining great success from pressuring Omagh goalkeeper Niall McGinn's kickout. So flustered was McGinn that three of his kickouts taken with his instep floated out over the sideline in the first half.

Omagh gradually worked their way into things and with an overloaded defence were able to counter-attack with Connor O'Donnell available for the outlet ball. He opened their account when he dropped for a short free off Conan Grugan and captain Hugh Gallagher got on the end of a fine move to add their second.

The reigning champions went in at half-time one point up, but the goal chance that fell to Barry Tierney seconds after the restart will go down as a 'what if' moment for the men from Healy Park.

Slaughtneil proceeded to the other end of the pitch and Shane McGuigan knocked over two frees in quick succession, which gave them a platform.

Despite another impressive performance by Omagh full-forward O'Donnell - who is surely worth a call-up by Tyrone manager Mickey Harte after torturing Brendan Rogers here - and a black card for Chrissy McKaigue, the Derrymen are so well-versed on the art of retaining possession that they were able to see the game out without any drama.

With a swirling wind, Grugan kicked a free and one from play wide in the second half. They were breathing down the neck of the Derrymen when the same man wriggled into a bit of space and while it looked as if he was about to bound into enough space for a goal chance, Chrissy McKaigue flung himself around his waist, earning a black card.

Omagh felt they would get another goal chance and so it came. A long ball out of defence from impressive sub Jason McAnulla found O'Donnell, who split the defence open with a delivery to the dashing Tierney. He would have been in for a goal, but the ever-alert Karl McKaigue was on hand to punch it out.

And from then on, Slaughtneil began the process of seeing out the game. Few do it better.

Next weekend, Slaughtneil get a well earned breather. But as Kearney quipped: "I wouldn't be surprised if Mickey (Moran) called training tomorrow morning."

Omagh: N McGinn; G Murray, H Gallagher 0-1, S Mullan; C McLaughlin 0-1, Joe McMahon 0-1 '45', B Tierney; C Clarke 0-1, M Gallagher; T Gallagher, C Grugan 0-1f, R O'Neill 0-1f; C O'Neill, C O'Donnell 0-2, C Meyler

Subs: J McAnulla for T Gallagher (40), Justin McMahon for Clarke (50), A Grugan for O'Neill (55)

Slaughtneil: A McMullan; P McNeill, B Rogers, K McKaigue; F McEldowney, C McKaigue, K Feeney; Patsy Bradley, Padraig Cassidy 0-1; Shane McGuigan 0-4f, P McGuigan, M McGrath; C O'Doherty, Sé McGuigan 0-1, C Bradley 0-4, 2f

Subs: R Bradley for P McGuigan (45), B Cassidy for R Bradley (60)

Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)

Attendance: 4,000

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