DERRY GAA: Salute to Slaughtneil, Derry’s remarkable history makers!

Slaughtneil players celebrates at the final whistle of the AIB Ulster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final game between Slaughtneil and Kilcoo at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh. (Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile)
Slaughtneil players celebrates at the final whistle of the AIB Ulster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final game between Slaughtneil and Kilcoo at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh. (Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile)

2016 Ulster Club Senior Football Championship Final

Slaughtneil 0-12, Kilcoo 0-09

Make a note of the date, folks: the feats of Sunday, November 27th 2016 will be talked about for many generations of Ulster Gaels to come.

Provincial titles are hard won and dual status is hard kept in the demanding modern arena of Gaelic Games. Participation in all three codes is considered an achievement.

Senior county titles in all three was most likely a pipe-dream and whoever first whispered an Ulster clean sweep in the small, straight-talking rural parish of Slaughtneil at the foot of the Sperrins was probably hauled away by the men in white coats. Except while they taking hauling him off somebody forgot to tell a special group of players that he wasn’t serious!

So, by the time the final whistle sounded in the Athletic Grounds on Sunday November 27th, the club’s senior footballers had emulated their hurling and camogie counterparts to complete a season that will have the Hollywood scriptwriters queueing up to buy the rights.

Slaughtneil captain Francis McEldowney holds aloft the Seamus McFerran cup after the AIB Ulster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final game between Slaughtneil and Kilcoo at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh. (Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile)

Slaughtneil captain Francis McEldowney holds aloft the Seamus McFerran cup after the AIB Ulster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final game between Slaughtneil and Kilcoo at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh. (Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile)

Slaughtneil are a ‘club’ in the most purest sense of the word. The hurlers (well, those not playing!) and the camogs were there to cheer the footballer to glory, just as the footballers had been earlier in the season to see Ulster titles No. 1 and 2.

The club will now make a three pronged assault on the national stage and who would bet against them after this. That’s for another day though as the club, indeed the whole Oak Leaf county, salute the Emmet’s.

Teenager Shane McGuigan top scored for Slaughtneil with five points (three from play) as the Derry men held off a robust second half fight back from the five in a row Down champions to win by three points.

A powerful finish to the first half, when they scored four rapid fire points in the last three minutes, handed Slaughtneil a 0-9 to 0-5 lead at the break.

Micky Moran’s men began with real intent from the moment the throw-in ball was claimed vociferously by midfielder Patsy Bradley. Points from free-takers Shane McGuigan (with the left) and Paul Bradley (with the right) was no more than ample reward for being the dominant side.

After that early shock and awe, Kilcoo found their feet with points from Paul Devlin, Ceilum Doherty and Ryan Johnston pulling the two sides level after 15 minutes.

Two scores from rampaging full back Brendan Rogers edged the Slaughtneil ahead once more before a fine Daryll Branagan point levelled matters again with five minutes to the break.

Then came the Emmet’s blitz. Christopher Bradley, from distance, the raiding Chrissy McKaigue, Shane McGuigan – who could have goaled – and Cormac O’Doherty all split the posts as the 2014 champions manufactured a crucial four point advantage just before the interval.

With the words of manager Paul McIver ringing in their ears, the Magpies burst out of the blocks on the restart. Points from Darragh O’Hanlon, Martin Devlin and a brace from Ceilum Doherty made it a one point game by the 51st minute as Kilcoo began to purr. County player and creative hub Conor Laverty was beginning to weave spells in the chilly Armagh air with the game very much in the balance.

A Shane McGuigan free, however, edged Slaughtneil to a 0-11 to 0-9 lead soon after, but the Derry men have goalkeeper Antoin McMullan to thank for a magnificent 56th minute save to deny Eugen Branagan what would have certainly been a goal.

Deep into injury time a clinker from Paul Bradley confirmed the Slaughtneil victory. And history.

Scorers: Kilcoo - Ceilum Doherty 0-3, Daryll O’Hanlon 0-2f, Paul Devlin 0-1f, Ryan Johnston 0-1, Daryll Branagan 0-1, Martin Devlin 0-1.

Slaughtneil - Shane McGuigan 0-5 (0-2f), Brenfan Rogers 0-2, Paul Bradley 0-2f, Christopher Bradley 0-1, Chrissy McKaigue 0-1, Cormac O’Doherty 0-1

Kilcoo: Niall Kane, Eugene Branagan, Darragh O’Hanlon, Niall Branagan, Daryll Branagan, Aidan Branagan, Aaron Branagan, James McClean, JJ McLoughlin, Ceilum Doherty, Aaron Morgan, Ryan Johnston, Martin Devlin, Paul Devlin, Conor Laverty

Subs: Fhelim McGreevy for J McClean (BC 39 mins), Donal Kane for JJ McLoughlin (45 mins)

Slaughtneil: Antoin McMullan, Francis McEldowney, Brendan Rogers, Karl McKaigue, Paul McNeill, Christopher McKaigue, Keelan Feeney, Patsy Bradley, Padraig Cassidy, Shane McGuigan, Paul Bradley, Meehaul McGrath, Christopher Bradley, Se McGuigan, Cormac O’Doherty

Subs: Ronan Bradley for M McGrath (39), Gerald Bradley for Se McGuigan (45 mins), Brian Cassidy for C O’Doherty (57 mins)

Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)