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Slaughtneil close in on Ulster club place in history but Corrigan fumes

Slaughtneil 1-11 Killyclogher 0-8

By John Campbell

A place in history beckons for Slaughtneil following this impressive Ulster club football semi-final performance at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh yesterday.

Having already captured the provincial club hurling and camogie titles, Sunday week's football decider against Kilcoo will now offer Slaughtneil the chance to become the first side to claim all three crowns in the same year.

But while acknowledging that carving their name with pride in the record books still remains an incentive to progress further down the glory road, assistant manager John Joe Kearney points to the side's growing maturity as a key factor in this year's championship odyssey.

"I've said it before this year that I feel the side is maturing and we saw further evidence of that in this win over Killyclogher," states Kearney.

"There are several younger players who have come into the side but they are proving very hard to displace."

"If anyone witnessed the competitive nature of our matches in training they would understand why the side is in another Ulster final. We are now meeting a Kilcoo side we know very little about but we will study them in the build-up to the final."

But while Slaughtneil celebrated another milestone in their journey to what they hope will prove unprecedented glory, Killyclogher boss Dominic Corrigan was left fuming.

"I could not believe the manner in which some first half frees in particular were given against us," rapped Corrigan.

"I think that Slaughtneil conned the referee on occasions but I would have thought that someone with Ciaran Branagan's experience would have seen through this. It is very disappointing for us although I concede that Slaughtneil were the better team at the end of the day and deserved their win.

"They got a platform from those free-kicks in the first half which I did not feel was justified."

""Fair play to Slaughtneil, though, they are now in a position to make their own bit of history but we just have to try and learn from this and move on."

Slaughtneil's patience, poise and power were manifest throughout the second half in particular as they brought Killyclogher to their knees.

More cohesive and penetrative unit in the first-half, the thrust of Slaughtneil's attacking strategy came from the deep-lying Paul Bradley who initiated a series of attacks while Patsy Bradley's experience at midfield saw him underline his aerial ability.

Yet for all their enterprise and endeavour up front, Slaughtneil could only manage to muster a solitary point from play.

It was the accurate Paul Bradley who kept the Derry champions purring along with four points from frees, the first coming in the 11th minute and his fourth in the fourth minute of added time after Killyclogher had been held scoreless from the 13th until the 31st minute.

Indeed in that spell, the O'Neill county representatives rarely stretched the Slaughtneil defence although Mark Bradley, despite the ongoing attention he was receiving from Karl McKaigue, was invariably difficult to contain when in possession.

It was Bradley who opened Killyclogher's scoring in the second minute before adding another from a free in the 13th minute with Simon O'Neill and Conall McCann landing the team's other first half scores.

Paul Bradley's brace of points in the 28th minute and in added time helped to give Slaughtneil a tenuous 0-6 to 0-4 interval cushion.

But it was Meehaul McGrath's goal two minutes after the break that propelled Slaughtneil into a higher gear and effectively sounded the death-knell for Killyclogher's title aspirations.

When Padraig Cassidy, Christopher Bradley and Paul Bradley tacked on points, Slaughtneil were in command at 1-9 to 0-4.

Killyclogher battled grimly with Mark Bradley pocketing another two points and Tiernan Cox and Martin Swift also hitting the target but late points from Se McGuigan and substitute Ronan Bradley merely served to underline Slaughtneil's authority - and perhaps shortened the odds on their chances of stepping into history.

Slaughtneil: A McMullan; F McEldowney, B Rogers, K McKaigue; P McNeill, C McKaigue, K Feeney; P Bradley, P Cassidy 0-1; Shane McGuigan 0-1 (f), Paul Bradley 0-5 (all frees), M McGrath 1-0; C Bradley 0-2, Se McGuigan 0-1, C O'Doherty. Subs: R Bradley for O'Doherty (52), P Kelly for McGrath (62).

Killyclogher: S Fox; M Swift 0-1, D Gorman, G Sludden; T McCann, E Bradley, G Wallace; S O'Neill 0-1 (f), F Meenagh; A Kelly, C McCann 0-1, N Donnelly; M Bradley 0-4 (3f), T Flanagan, E McFadden. Subs: J Carlin for Flanagan (25),T Cox 0-1 for N Donnelly (43), D Leonard for O'Neill (48), M Meenagh for F Meenagh 57), C Meenan for A Kelly (63) . Yellow card: E McFadden (44).

Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down).

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