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Slaughtneil fume as hurling champs face football quarter just six days after Ulster glory

 

By Declan Bogue

Slaughtneil's captain and manager have expressed their dismay that, after their historic back-to-back Ulster hurling titles, the Ulster Council will hold firm with their scheduling of Saturday night's Ulster football quarter-final against Omagh St Enda's.

This gives the south Derry club just over six days to recover and prepare for the visit of the Tyrone champions, who have been waiting 13 days for the fixture.

This Sunday, Cavan Gaels host Lámh Dhearg and Scotstown are in Clones facing Kilcar in the senior football Championship.

In a novel move for the Ulster Council, for the first time two quarter-finals are going to be staged on the Saturday night; Derrygonnelly Harps facing Armagh Harps in Brewster Park, while Slaughtneil have Omagh.

The Ulster Council have already confirmed that Slaughtneil's game will not be moved to allow their panel - with only two of the victorious starting hurling team not on the football roster - to get more recovery time from their exertions.

Chrissy McKaigue, who led the Emmetts to their defence of the Four Seasons Cup, stated: "In 2013, Loughgiel beat us in an Ulster final at Celtic Park and I spoke to a reporter afterwards at length about how I was a wee bit annoyed because I had played the International Rules the night before and there were different opinions attached to it.

"But my thing was, 'why did Ulster hurling need to be played off so early?' Because it does really squash things up.

"I should be talking to the wall. I got absolutely no response or whatever else. At this stage, there is no point in talking any more about it."

Their manager Michael McShane also had words of condemnation.

"Sometimes it feels as if Slaughtneil are being punished for being successful," he explained.

"I don't understand it. I mean, Slaughtneil are well-chronicled now about their success and how they are the Ulster champions.

"Everybody knows they are going to be in these games. Why not leave it that they could be playing on the Sunday or why not give it two weeks and give the guys a chance?

"But to say, 'lads, you are playing Saturday night now instead of Sunday', I think, is madness. I think the powers that be should look at that."

Reflecting on a performance on Sunday that was less than perfect and yet still enough to win by 12 points, McShane added: "We have to keep in mind that when we talk about the performance out there, these lads have played now their third big, big Championship game in 14 days. That's tough going.

"And they have to go out now in another six days and play another one. So we keep on asking for their standards to be very high, it's probably unfair but we are still winning and that's the main thing."

Slaughtneil's win did not come accompanied with the raw emotion of last year's triumph, coming just after the funeral of Thomas Cassidy, a hugely influential figure in hurling in the area.

"Last year was a very different emotion, it was just pure and utter relief," explained McKaigue.

"There was a lot of emotion attached to last year but, in many ways, this year has been maybe more satisfying because, and I have no problem in saying, there are so many people around the country and in Ulster that said we were a flash in the pan.

"So, I think it's fair to say that great teams win back to back titles. We are now on that list."

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