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Time will tell if Slaughtneil have learned from last year's mistakes

By Declan Bogue

It was in the tunnel at the Athletic Grounds, the scene of such emotional outpouring a few months earlier when Slaughtneil became the first Derry club to win an Ulster Club hurling title, that the truth dawned.

In the lead-in to the game, the club had to juggle twin commitments of All-Ireland semi-finals in hurling and football. With eight dual players in the starting line-up and more coming off the bench, manager Michael McShane refused to let any negativity over the shared workload creep into his public utterances in the build-up to facing eventual All-Ireland champions Cuala - but after their exit, there was no need to be coy.

"The fact that we did not get enough hurling as we needed to was against us," he said.

"Our touch wasn't as sharp as theirs, our striking wasn't as sharp and we didn't get enough challenge games to get us to the level we needed to be at."

After the Ulster Club football final last winter, one of those dual players, Shane McGuigan, said that with Slaughtneil chasing All-Ireland finals in two codes for the second successive year, things would be different. Some had enjoyed Christmas too much the year before, he told us.

Now, Slaughtneil enter an All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick's superpower Na Piarsaigh this weekend. They are a dual club but have been able to concentrate exclusively on hurling over the last few months.

Without lapsing into a state of Ger Loughnane, it is important to recognise that hurling is an art that is only improved with holding a hurl every single day, just as former Waterford manager Justin McCarthy maintained he did even into his 60s.

Slaughtneil have held challenge matches against Carlow, Carlow IT and Tipperary over recent times. They assure us that they have the preparation done and the sticks have been in their paws, even allowing for the football preparations to face Corofin.

It will be interesting to see how far they have come on Saturday in Parnell Park.

Meanwhile, University of Ulster Jordanstown blew University of Limerick apart at the Shore Road campus yesterday in their Sigerson Cup quarter-final.

First-half goals from Ryan McAnespie, which came before Trillick brothers Lee and Rory Brennan struck for majors, was enough to open a gap.

They added another one at the start of the second half, Ronan McNamee arrowing to the corner to leave the final score 4-6 to 0-11 as Paul Rouse's men chase their first title since 2008.

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