Loup must bring ‘A game’ against champs Slaughtneil in Derry SFC decider

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Excitement is palpable when you drive through the Village of Loup.

Green and white flags bedeck almost every lamppost and is testament to the passion of the loughshore folk so desperate to relive the glory that saw them become county champions in 2009.

Slaughtneil are hungry for success and that will keep them fresh

Brian Doyle, Loup

For the players it will be all about controlling that passion when they step into Celtic Park at 3.45pm on Sunday to take on back-to-back champions Slaughtneil in the 2016 Senior Football Championship.

“I just want our guys to not let the occasion pass them by,” said Brian Doyle, a veteran of the victorious 2009 campaign. “The parish is buzzing with excitement and everyone is talking about the game. I just don’t want that to get in the way of us putting in a good performance in the final.

“We have managed to keep injury free and we’ve had a bit of luck too. The first goal against Ballinascreen was the big difference between us winning and losing that game. Then they lost a man and the game opened up.

“In ‘09, the goal we got in the final was sheer good fortune and the same can be said when Slaughtneil beat Ballinderry in 2014. But you have to be in the game for the luck to matter.

“Most people would say that you have to make your own luck, but have we made it or just been on the right side of it?

“Honestly, at the start of the year I’d have taken your arm off to get into a semi-final. Now that we are into the final that is no thought of that.

“It has been two or three years since we have got past the quarter final stage. I think it was a bit of a shock to have beaten Ballinascreen by so much in the semis. I think we have really surprised ourselves!

“The team has changed so much since 2009 - I was just coming through then - and we had guys like Paul McFlynn and (now manager) Johnny McBride there. We have been bringing a lot of youth through and building the team since.

“Johnny being there in 2003 and 2009 has been good as he gets major respect from that. The preparation has been very, very good. Johnny knows what he wants (from the team) and it has gone really well.

“Pace around the park has definitely been a feature of our season. We are fast, but I think that the real trait of this year has been how everyone has bought into the workrate. Everyone has shown their dedication to training and to the ideas that the management want to install.

“When you have a group buying into the whole package, the package that Johnny has brought in, it can make all the difference. We’ll continue that this week and prepare as best we can.

“You look at the game right now and it is all about pace. The game has changed away from pure ball players so we are lucky to have boys who can run and run. Ballinascreen and Glen were both pacey outfits.”

There is no doubt that Doyle is full of admiration for his opposition on Sunday. They are going for three-in-a-row of Derry titles as well as the fabled ‘double triple’ of county football, hurling and camogie titles.

“Slaughtneil are flying too. They are battle-hardened and they are smooth in what they do on the field. They are far more experienced than us - all their players have been in county finals before. They’ve been there and done it.

“I don’t think fatigue is going to play any part in the game. Slaughtneil are hungry for success and that will keep them fresh. They won’t be complacent - there are no egos with that team.

“It is going to be tough, but if we can get a few scores early on and stay with them we’ll put ourselves in a good position.

“We need to bring our ‘A game’ and we will give it a real good shot.”