Slaughtneil roar out of the traps to book spot in final
Slaughtneil 1-17 Middletown 0-8
It was job done for Slaughtneil yesterday as they booked their place in the Ulster hurling final against Dunloy with 12 points to spare over Middletown.
It was a very workmanlike performance from the Derry champions, who held a seven-point lead at the interval thanks largely to Se McGuigan's 25th-minute goal.
Cormac O'Doherty, with nine of his 11 points coming from placed balls in an all-round flawless display, produced a man of the match performance, while Brian Cassidy carried a major threat on the edge of the square throughout.
The Derry men made a sharp start and had Middletown on the back foot for the majority of the opening 15 minutes, building a seven-point lead in the process with O'Doherty their tormentor in chief.
The Na Fianna men responded well with David Carvill landing a trio of unanswered frees but McGuigan's major put any thoughts of an early comeback off the picture and Slaughtneil took control once again.
Middletown were dogged for long periods after a slow start but were toothless in attack.
All of their eight points came from Carvill, seven of which were frees, before the Na Fianna man was sent off for a second yellow card with 11 minutes of the game remaining.
The Slaughtneil defence were imperious throughout, led superbly by their half-back line of Meehaul McGrath, Sean O Caiside and Shane McGuigan, while Sean Cassidy kept order on the edge of his own square throughout.
Slaughtneil always maintained an element of control without ever really going through the gears.
At times they looked like they could cut open a very tenacious Middletown defence but they probably should have won by a greater margin in the end with their wides tally reaching double figures by the end of the hour.
Having scored eight points in the first 15 minutes, they recorded 1-9 in the remaining 45 minutes.
The Armagh champions didn't record another score after with Slaughtneil finding their range another three times with Brendan Rodgers, Cormac O'Doherty and Gerald Bradley all adding gloss to the final score.
After their surprise loss in the 2018 semi-final, Slaughtneil have laid that particular ghost to rest and now look forward to a meeting with Antrim champions Dunloy in two weeks' time.
Slaughtneil: Morgan McEldowney; K McKeague, S Cassidy, Michael McEldowney; Shane McGuigan, S O Caiside, M McGrath; G Bradley (0-1), C McKaigue (0-1); M McGuigan, C O'Doherty (0-11, 9 f's), B Rodgers (0-2); Se McGuigan (1-00), J McGuigan, B Cassidy (0-2).
Subs: Conor McAllister for K McKeague (blood sub 10, reversed 12); Conor McAllister for M McEldowney (40); Cormac McKenna for J McGuigan (54); Gareth O'Kane for Sé McGuigan (54); Peadar Kearney for M McGrath (58)
Yellow Cards: J McGuigan (46)
Middletown: F Woods; L Woods, T Nevin, O Curry; P Hughes, S Gaffney, P Lappin; P McBride, K McKernan; D Carvill (0-8 7f), N Curry, M Maguire; D Gaffney, R Gaffney, M Moan.
Subs: Mark McClatchey for R Gaffney (blood sub 20 reversed 21); Cahal Carvill for N Curry (43); Mark Clatchney for M Maguire (48); Chris McCann for M Moan (55); Sean Og McGuinness for D Gaffney (58)
Yellow Cards: D Carvill (10, 49); C Carvill (44)
Red Cards: D Carvill (49)
Referee: Colm McDonald (St Galls, Antrim).