Slaughtneil's Ulster victory was no fluke, and now we'll prove it: McShane
Dunloy 2-08 Slaughtneil 1-18
The amazing story of Slaughtneil had another glorious outing in Owenbeg yesterday, as the biggest crowd recorded at the north Derry venue - 6,142 with people still arriving at the start of the second half - enjoyed the 'Robbies' asserting their dominance in Ulster with a deserved seven-point victory over Dunloy.
If last year's Ulster final win over Loughgiel was seen as a "fluke" in some quarters, according to Slaughtneil manager Michael McShane, then this leaves us in doubt as to their standing ahead of the Ulster decider on October 22, against Ballygalget.
"I stand by what I said, there was a certain element of people that said we caught Loughgiel on the hop, or we got lucky, or a Derry team would get lucky some time," stated the victorious Ballycastle man, perched on a table afterwards with a smile splitting his face.
"Beating the Antrim champions two years in a row is a statement by these guys that they are a top team, and they're going to be a top team for a long time."
After the first quarter, that hardly seemed likely.
Dunloy had raced into a 1-4 to 0-1 lead, the highlight of which came when Nigel Elliott fastened onto an Ally Dooey flick to race through and slot his shot across the body of Slaughtneil goalkeeper Óisín Doherty.
Slaughtneil had looked leggy and lethargic. But over the next quarter of an hour they registered 1-8 without a single response. Their goal landed a couple of minutes shy of half time. Chrissy McKaigue roared into play by hitting his first point.
On the very next restart he sent in a searching ball. Dunloy goalkeeper Ryan Elliott went to deal with it but his stick received the slightest of glances from Rogers and the ball bounced into the net to leave Slaughtneil ahead, 1-9 to 1-5 at the break.
Try as they might, Dunloy could not recapture their early sparkle. When Slaughtneil dragged them into a battle, they were just far more flinty, more combative.
Dunloy's young starlet Conal Cunning was kept scoreless by Karl McKaigue who was all over him like a rash, while Chrissy dominated main man Paul Shiels. But the standout performers were O'Doherty from the placed ball, and Gerald Bradley who led the fightback by catching puckout after puckout.
Slaughtneil will face Ballygalget in the final, and their manager refuses to put any limits on what they can achieve.
"The potential here is scary," he said.
"We had an average age today that was younger than Dunloy and everybody has been talking about this young Dunloy team.
"These guys have a wild lot of maturing, a whole lot of growing and a whole lot of getting better to do."
And the best thing is that we get to see their footballers back out next Sunday against Kilcoo as they put their Ulster football title on the line.
Slaughtneil: Doherty; McKaigue, Sean 'Tad' Cassidy, McGuigan; McGrath, Shane McGuigan, McNeill; McAllister, McKaigue 1-1; Bradley 0-1, Sean Ó Caiside, Rogers 0-2; Sé McGuigan 0-1, Cassidy 0-2, O'Doherty 0-11, 7f, 1 x '65'
Subs: C McKenna for Sean 'Tad' Cassidy (9), O'Kane for Sean Ó Caiside (35)
Yellow cards: Ó Caiside (4), McKenna (19), Rogers (44), McNeill (47), Shane McGuigan (60), McKaigue (63)
Red cards: 0
Dunloy: Elliott; P Duffy, J McKeague, Shivers; McKeague, McKinley, Kevin Molloy; Elliott, Shiels 1-4, 0-4f; Elliott 1-0, McTaggert 0-1, Keelan Molloy 0-1; E O'Neill 0-1, Dooey, Cunning
Subs: N McKeague 0-1f for Elliott (H-time), Brogan for Dooey (39), S Dooey for McTaggert (42), Smyth for Shivers (49)
Yellow cards: McKeague (27), S Dooey (61), Brogan (63)
Red cards: Cunning (61)
Referee: James Clarke (Cavan)