Slaughtneil find yet another way to triumph in a thriller
Slaughtneil 2-17 Kilcar 0-17
The 'Double-Treble' or the 'Treble-Double', nobody quite knows what to call it, but Slaughtneil are just an hour's football away from defending their Ulster titles in football, hurling and camogie after they came through a difficult test, rising to the Kilcar challenge and burning off the Donegal champions.
How they did it was a marvel as at half-time they were a point down, 0-8 to 0-7, and it appeared that Kilcar's impressive running game, along with the accuracy of Paddy McBrearty, could spell the end for the leg-weary Derrymen.
But Kilcar spurned four gilt-edged goal chances - not to mention the general excellence of Antoin McMullan in Slaughtneil's goal - while Slaughtneil themselves hit only two wides in the entire game, one coming in the final play.
To put it another way, Kilcar had 24 efforts at goal all evening while Slaughtneil had 21. This is what economy of effort looks and feels like.
"We were a point down and they were really putting it up to us, there's no two ways about it," said Slaughtneil's assistant manager John Joe Kearney with an audible 'phew' afterwards.
"I suppose they had their goal chances in either half that they didn't put away. It could have left it a different result or a lot closer anyway. At half-time, we knew what they were capable of."
His opposite number, Barry Doherty, was downbeat but not downhearted after a season that delivered their first Donegal title in 24 years.
"I couldn't have asked any more from the lads, they worked hard," he said. "We tried to push up on their kickouts, which was giving us success but we didn't start well. We went into half time a point up and didn't start the second half the pace we should have."
From the start, it looked like both teams had put considerable thought into the man marking roles. Brendan Rogers picked up Kilcar captain Patrick McBrearty, Ryan McHugh playmaker Ryan McHugh was pushed to centre-forward where he was accompanied by Karl McKaigue, Kilcar limited Chrissy McKaigue's influence by placing the lively Conor Doherty onto him and Keelan Feeney was to mark the slightly larger Eoin McHugh, who became an unusual target for kickouts.
By the quarter-hour mark Slaughtneil found themselves 0-6 to 0-1 up, Shane McGuigan and Christopher Bradley from the dead ball were accurate and a jink from Bradley after he was serviced from a quick free from McKaigue had them in a comfortable position. But Kilcar began to push their case and when they got Slaughtneil on the back foot. McBrearty had been struggling against Brendan Rogers but the ball began to stick with his first touch and he grabbed five first half points, three of them from play as they turned the screw. Kilcar were to account for the last three points of the half with McBrearty granting them the lead at the break, 0-8 to 0-7. Just when you question Slaughtneil, they respond emphatically. The 'Championship Quarter' was all theirs, the McKaigue brothers setting standards.
After trading two points each, the Derrymen hit 1-4 without reply to go six clear.
The hammer blow came with a Slaughtneil goal when Bradley played Sé McGuigan in who rode a couple of challenges before blasting in off the crossbar.
The second goal arrived with a minute of normal time to play, Shane McGuigan expertly drawing the Kilcar defence before a swift handpass across the goal for Christopher Bradley to palm home.
"It's pressure that we are now going for a football Ulster title," said Kearney of the impossible dream coming true, bit by bit.
"The camogs and hurlers have already won it so it puts a bit of pressure I suppose. It doesn't be talked about to be honest, but I am sure boys are thinking to themselves about this."
Slaughtneil: A McMullan; P McNeill, B Rogers, K McKaigue 0-1; F McEldowney, C McKaigue 0-1, K Feeney; Patsy Bradley, P Cassidy 0-1; R Bradley, Shane McGuigan 0-3, 1f, M McGrath 0-2; C Bradley 1-5, 1f 1 '45', Sé McGuigan 1-0, C O'Doherty 0-2
Subs: B McGuigan for McGrath, 24 - 29 mins, Blood Sub, B Cassidy 0-2 for O'Doherty, 30m, B McGuigan for Patsy Bradley, 60m.
Kilcar: E McGinley; B McGinley 0-1, C McShane, B Shovlin; R McHugh, M Hegarty, P Carr; C McGinley 0-1, M McHugh 0-1; S McBrearty 0-1, E McHugh 0-1, C Doherty; A McClean 0-1, P McBrearty 0-10, 5f, S Shovlin
Subs: M McClean 0-1 for S Shovlin, 42m, M Sweeney for C McGinley, 44m, B O'Donnell for McShane, 60m
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)