At times in this Intermediate Championship clash Slaughtmanus threatened to open up Pearses whenever they needed to, but by the end Trasna, to their credit, had run them tighter than what the final score suggested and probably warranted a tighter result than the finish.
But, when it was really required, Christopher Cooke’s men always did enough to keep this game just beyond the reach of the Waterside outfit. They had the flexibility and depth to do so.
They started with Ian Doherty at midfield, Barry Lyons at centre half forward, and Gavin McShane at 14. All of a sudden every man shifted out one position and Doherty was deployed at the edge of the square. It allowed them to mix it up, to have different options, and the high ball into Doherty brought about the first goal as he managed to palm the ball back across goal for Shane Connor to fist to the net. But, before that, they had Lyons pushed further forward and he opened the scoring by raising the first two white flags, making full use of the wind at his back.
Trasna took on a more defensive strategy than what we’ve been accustomed to seeing from them. Playing against the wind in the first half, they were more concerned with closing up shop as everyone filtered back into defence leaving Dee Starrett on his own in the full forward line.
It worked for large periods too. Din McLaughlin and Colin Murray hugged the touchline and whenever possession was turned over, the red shirts went running at the Ervey Road rearguard ferociously with Paul Quigley and Mícheál McNaught leading the charge from midfield.
Sean McNaught, lined out at wing forward, started as a sweeper but he moved to centre half back to free up Eoghan Carlin to wander in defence. They were defending in numbers, sure, but they were to work mightily hard to take on their shape again.
It was a very risky game though considering the likes of Cahir and Ryan Cooke, joined with Fergal Hargan, were given time and space to get forward with ease. And it got worse in the second half as Din McLaughlin took on a more permanent deep-lying role and Ryan Cooke capitalised fully by pushing forward almost playing as an extra attacker.
Pearses could do little about Gavin McShane’s sole contributions from play as he struck from distance and from angles with frightening accuracy.
Simpson’s men did rally in the second half as they came out and converted three set pieces without reply, the pick of which coming from a Conor Houston sideline. But they were restricted to just one score from play throughout the final 30 minutes. That came courtesy of Colin Murray’s patience in the full forward line paying off when Starrett picked him out and the young corner-forward went through one-on-one finishing coolly underneath the goalkeeper. The forward trio might well have been isolated but they were dangerous and you get the feeling that, with a bit more practice, Simpson could be on to something with this system.
Meanwhile, for the opening 20 minutes of the second half, Slaughtmanus’ only avenue to a score from play was via the aerial route to the advanced Doherty. It worked twice but they got sloppy and to switch off like that against anyone with an outside chance in this championship would mean curtains for the ‘Manus, something they need to eradicate if they have any aspirations of progressing.
But, on the bench, Cooke had ridiculous depth with the luxury of introducing the likes of Kevin King and Kieran Barr, both of whom got on the score sheet in the latter stages to kill off the contest.
Performances like this won’t turn too many heads but that will suit Slaughtmanus. They know that a massive improvement is needed to step up to the pace of what other teams have experienced so far but that will come. For now, it’s a start.
Slaughtmanus: Conor Thornton; Conor Lynch, Ronan Devine, Adrian Deery; Ryan Cooke, Cahir Cooke, Fergal Hargan (0-1); Ian Doherty (0-2), John Robertson; Shane Connor (1-0), Barry Lyons (0-2), Ryan Barr; Sean Curran, Gavin McShane (0-10, 0-8f), Adrian O’Kane (0-1). Subs: Kieran Barr (0-1) for R Cooke (B/S 25, rev 28), Kieran Barr for R Barr (28), Brian Duddy for S Connor (47), Kevin King (0-1) for S Curran (49), Ciaran McGlinchey for A O’Kane (55), Michael Boyle for C Lynch (58).
Doire Trasna: Ciaran McGowan; Damian Doherty, Gary Murray, Kevin McKenna; Aaron Callaghan, Eoghan Carlin, Conor Houston (0-2, 0-1f, 0-1 sideline); Paul Quigley, Mícheál McNaught (0-2); Sean McNaught, Barry McKenna, Din McLaughlin (0-1); Colin Murray (1-0), Damien Starrett (0-4f), Ciaran McKenna (0-1 45’). Subs: Daryl McDermott for M McNaught (50), Barry McCafferty for C Houston (55)