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Slaughtneil can return to knock All Ireland door down, insists manager McShane

Slaughtneil 3-8 Na Piarsaigh 3-15

By Declan Bogue

Anyone objectively looking at how this panned out for Slaughtneil; three points to the good at half-time, two opponents dismissed in the first five minutes of the second, a penalty saved by their own goalkeeper, a penalty scored by them…

And still to lose it?

Well, you would have to think they will never have a greater opportunity.

But the cause endures for manager Michael McShane, who assured afterwards that, "We have improved from last year. Our performance today was a lot better than it was against Cuala last year.

"What they've got to do is come back next year with the same steel and resolve to keep going at it.

"To keep knocking on that door until they break it down and I do believe in this team. The age profile is good. This team is far from its peak."

The fear for Slaughtneil was that they wouldn't have enough hurling done, having to balance their football exertions. All the noises out of their camp suggested they had corrected that, playing a Tipperary team and various Carlow outfits.

Perhaps mindful of what the Munster champions had done to another Ulster club in maroon - Ruairi Óg Cushendall in the All-Ireland final a couple of years back - Slaughtneil made a few tactical alterations.

Karl McKaigue picked up Adrian Breen and held him scoreless.

Chrissy McKaigue lay much deeper to frustrate David Breen and the aerial ability of Gerald Bradley was utilised occasionally close to goal.

Both Breens were taken off scoreless, which shows they certainly had the men to cope with key threats.

They had their first goal when Cormac O'Doherty buried the penalty won when Brendan Rogers was hauled to the ground. The second was courtesy of Rogers setting up Brian Cassidy just a minute after Conor Boylan had pegged one back for the Limerick city men.

But Shane Dowling's introduction at half time was the decisive factor. He replaced the ineffective Adrian Breen and any ball that came his way he worked miracles with.

Manager Shane O'Neill felt Na Piarsaigh had to blow some dirty diesel out of the tank after the three-month lay-off.

"With our lads if they don't have games we are slightly off the pace and you could see that in the first half and it was the same with the Munster final playing against Blackrock but it was such an easy match for us so we weren't really tested, then the 12 week break," he began.

"We obviously dealt with it a lot less than they had done.

"Interestingly although the odds were so against Slaughtneil we were talking as a management team during the week and we thought we would need 19 or 20 players there today and that actually showed for various reasons we expected to use them and we needed every single one of the boys."

They had already wrestled back the lead when a Dowling pass put Kevin Downes in for a goal on 41 minutes.

Despite the numerical advantage, Slaughtneil began to tire as the little flashes of Dowling's brilliance, married with the sheer wearing effect that Ronan Lynch was having from the placed ball, edged them out of the contest.

He hit 14 points here in total, leaving Slaughtneil with no leniency on the 'half-foul' that some teams have as a stock in trade in hurling.

Their influence shrunk until they were merely hanging on, Gerald Bradley's late goal certainly improving the scoreboard, but McShane feels there is more to come.

"The year we lost to Cushendall in extra-time (of the 2015 Ulster final), we had a resolve that we would keep banging on the door and banging on the door until we would break the door down and become Ulster champions - to make history and become the first Derry team to win Ulster.

"The exact same thing applies here," he insisted. "We have got to keep coming back.

"We have lost to a very good team; a team that was All-Ireland champions two years ago, a team that four times in the last seven years have become Munster Club hurling champions, so they are no slouches.

"There is no disgrace in losing to these guys today."

The final goal came like an exclamation point for Na Piarsaigh's superiority. Dowling blocked down an attempted clearance, reached the ball a fraction before Sean Cassidy, rose it over his head and caught it on the volley to the top corner.

Pure class.

As for Slaughtneil, there is always the football, and the chance to exact some revenge against Munster competition against Nemo Rangers of Cork city in just under a fortnight.

Slaughtneil: O O'Doherty; P McNeill, Sean 'Tad' Cassidy, K McKaigue; Shane McGuigan, M McGrath 0-1, C McKenna; E Cassidy, C McAllister; C McKaigue 0-1, B Rodgers 0-1, G Bradley 1-0; C O'Doherty 1-0 pen, 0-3, 2f, M McGuigan, B Cassidy 1-2

Subs: G O'Kane for McAllister (50)

Na Piarsaigh: P Kennedy; J Boylan, M Casey, N Buckley; A Dempsey, C King, T Grimes; R Lynch 0-14, 0-10f, 1x'65', W O'Donoghue; A Breen, D Breen, D Dempsey; C Boylan 1-0, K Downes 1-0, P Casey 0-1

Subs:, S Dowling 1-0 for A Breen (HT), K Ryan for D Breen (54), K Kennedy for Dempsey (56)

Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)

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