Slaughtneil eye up trophy haul
Slaughtneil 0-12 St Vincent's 0-10
It's two down, one to go for the remarkable Slaughtneil club.
The footballers sensationally defeated favourites St Vincent's at a freezing Pairc Esler on Saturday to emulate their camogs and reach the All-Ireland final - and it could get even better with the hurlers' semi-final contest to come.
It took sheer courage for Slaughtneil to beat St Vincent's 0-12 to 0-10, encapsulated by how Chrissy McKaigue bent the game to his will.
It had been predicted that he would have to mark one of the classiest acts in the game in Diarmuid Connolly, but nobody could have foreseen him outscoring the six-time All-Ireland winner 0-4 to 0-1.
And yet it could have been different only for a little pep talk. Slaughtneil assistant John Joe Kearney said: "He was a wee bit concerned about marking Diarmuid Connolly. We had a get-together on Friday night and I knew by the vibes coming from him that he was worried.
"I had a word with him, a one-to-one last night, and told him that it was the first time in my three years here that I had seen negativity from him.
"I said, 'why should you worry about Diarmuid Connolly? Let Diarmuid Connolly worry about you. You get an opening, you go for it. Put him on the back foot'.
"He obviously listened, because he had a great game. To be playing an amateur sport, he plays it as a professional."
It's no wonder that all the experts had predicted a Vincent's win. They not only have a slew of Dublin representatives on their panel, but they could also spring inter-county imports from the bench such as Armagh's Joe Feeney and Galway's Fiachra Breathnach to go along with those who started, including Sligo's Brendan Egan and Mayo's Enda Varley.
And Varley was the reason the Dublin and Leinster champions went in at half-time 0-6 to 0-5 up with four points in the opening half. Connolly also kicked a point that came down from the clouds as Slaughtneil's jitters manifested itself in five first half wides and one free criminally dropped short by Paul Bradley.
But a storming third quarter, when they hit five of the first six points, gave them a cushion to carry into the final minutes.
Vincent's manager Tommy Conroy unloaded his bench with big names such as Feeney and Breathnach, along with Kevin Golden.
They might have had a goal when an undercooked Tomás Quinn '45' was flicked goalwards by Varley, but Slaughtneil goalkeeper Antóin McMullan tipped around the post.
In the final minute, the ball ended up in Connolly's clutches, but McKaigue jockeyed superbly to shut down the goal chance and they settled for a Shane Carthy point.
The final word, however, belonged with Slaughtneil, Bradley nailing a crucial free kick in the second minute of injury-time.
SLAUGHTNEIL: A McMullan; F McEldowney, B Rodgers, K McKaigue; P McNeill, C McKaigue (0-4), K Feeney; Patsy Bradley, P Cassidy; Shane McGuigan (0-3, 2f), Paul Bradley (0-2, 2f), M McGrath; C Bradley (0-3), Se McGuigan, C O'Doherty
Subs: R Bradley for Se McGuigan (54), B McGuigan for K McKaigue (BC, 64)
Yellow cards: McGrath (44), C McKaigue (50)
Black cards: K McKaigue (64, replaced by B McGuigan)
Red cards: 0
St Vincent's: M Savage; M Concarr, J Curley, C Wilson; B Egan, G Brennan, Cameron Diamond; N Mullins (0-1), S Carthy (0-1); G Burke (0-2), D Connolly (0-1), Cormac Diamond; R Trainor, E Varley (0-5, 2f), T Quinn
Subs: A Martin for Trainor (46), J Feeney for Cormac Diamond (BC, 61), K Golden for Cameron Diamond (67), F Breathnach for Mullins (58), S McCusker for Egan (BC, 62)
Yellow cards: Varley (30), Concarr (39), Connolly (47), Brennan (55), Mullins (57)
Black cards: Diamond (50, replaced by J Feeney), Egan (64, replaced by J McCusker)
Red cards: 0
Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)