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Slaughtneil have to triumph again to gain respect: McShane

 

By Declan Bogue

Just under a year later, and the Slaughtneil hurlers are made to feel like there was something less than authentic about their Ulster final win over Loughgiel Shamrocks on that momentous day.

Under a watery sun, the Emmetts became the first Derry club to win the Four Seasons Cup with an incredible performance just days after burying the parish's father of hurling, Thomas Cassidy.

There was nobody leaving Armagh that day wishing Slaughtneil anything but the best. But once the emotion of the occasion slipped away, and their subsequent defeat in the All-Ireland semi-final to eventual champions Cuala, manager Michael McShane has detected a certain patronising tone to the conversations he has with some hurling people.

"There is a sense that maybe, just maybe, we didn't get the credit we deserved in certain quarters. Some people saw it as a case that Loughgiel lost the Ulster final rather than Slaughtneil winning it," states McShane with a hint of relish ahead of tomorrow's Ulster semi-final against Dunloy.

"We are very determined to win it again this year to show that it was not a one-off. Good teams can win things and great teams win back-to-back titles and that's what we want to do."

The feeling is nothing less will copper-fasten Slaughtneil's right to consider themselves as belonging in the company of Antrim clubs.

In a club that have won the last three Derry hurling, football and camogie titles, motivation has to come from somewhere. Though this is no stunt or an attempt to work up some 'us against the world' mentality, insists McShane.

"You would have stopped and talked to people. Reading between the lines they would have been saying to you that we got lucky last year, that we caught Loughgiel on the hop, that they went into the game with a wee bit too much confidence and we caught them cold," he explains.

"That certainly wasn't the case. Any of their players would tell you they certainly didn't feel like that. We won last year because we were the better team on the day. We were the best team on the day and we deservedly won it.

"I think there is a feeling about that we got lucky. We want to make sure that we come back to prove ourselves all over again, to ourselves as much as anybody else."

Last year's triumphs are over and done with. The hurlers lost their semi-final against Cuala and the football team won theirs on an incredible day against St Vincent's of Dublin, eventually losing to Colm Cooper's Dr Crokes on St Patrick's Day.

After the hurling defeat to Cuala, McShane admitted that Slaughtneil might always be hampered by their dual identity, but already he was making plans to get to the standard required for All-Ireland hurling.

"There is a certain level we want to be at on Sunday and if we are, then we will be confident it will work. And then we have to take it to the next level to an Ulster title and try to get beyond that."

He continues: "You are always looking to improve on every facet of your game.

"We are coming in as Ulster champions. And winning last year was like a monkey off the back. It was something everybody talked about and you might have thought it was some kind of a curse.

"The year before last when we lost to Cushendall by a point after extra-time, it might have been easier for the players to say, 'well, we are never going to win now'. That was never going to happen with this bunch of players. All they wanted to do was get back to that Ulster final and make amends.

"And now that they have done it, now that they are Ulster champions and very proud of that, they want to do that again."

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