Derry Senior Football Championship Final
Slaughtneil v Coleraine (Sunday, Celtic Park, 3.00pm)
When the semi-final match ups were made, the final pairing for Sunday’s John McLaughlin Cup decider at Celtic Park (3pm) was widely expected to be a repeat of the 2014 decider between winners Slaughtneil and Ballinderry.
Slaughtneil comprehensively defeated Bellaghy in the second semi-final last Sunday evening in Owenbeg, winning 2-16 to 1-6 in a powerful display of counter attacking football.
When Cormac O’Doherty blasted to the net in the third minute to open the scoring they had set their stall out early. A second goal from Sé McGuigan helped Slaughtneil to a 2-6 to 0-3 lead by the 20th minute and the Ulster champions were looking back to their best right at the business end of the season.
With the Derry senior hurling title already won Slaughtneil will be going for an incredible ‘double double’ as they seek to retain their football crown in Celtic Park.
Coleraine stand in their way as they aim to reprise their surprise victory in 2010 to claim their one and only senior title to date.
The Coleraine men were not many pundits’ picks at the start of the season and even less so following their second round defeat to Bellaghy. They eased past Banagher in the play-offs and then got the better of Kilrea in the quarter-final.
Underdogs once again for their semi-final with Ballinderry, they produced a powerful second half performance to upset the odds and set up this weekend’s final showdown.
If Slaughtneil’s demolition of Bellaghy is anything to go by, the Bannsiders could be in for a torrid time. The Emmet’s have a rock solid defence, marshalled by the McKaigue brothers, Chrissy and Karl, while full-back Brendan Rogers has developed into a key figure in the Emmet’s game-plan.
With Patsy Bradley at midfield, his battle with county colleague, Niall Holly, should be worth the admission money itself.
Both teams showed in their semi-final victories that they have forwards that can do damage if given space to operate. The likes of Cormac O’Doherty, Sé McGuigan, Paul Bradley and Chris Bradley all contributed handsomely on the scoring front for Slaughtneil while Eoghan Rua will be looking to Colm McGoldrick, Ciaran McGoldrick and Gavan McWilliams for the bulk of their scores.
Players like Stephen Coyles (0-2) and Ruairi Mooney who came off the bench and scored three second half points will not be given as much latitude in this game.
Both teams will set up defensively so space and scoring opportunities will be at a premium. Slaughtneil showed in their low scoring 0-6 to 0-3 quarter-final win over Ballinascreen that they can grind out victories, they will not worry about how they get the job done.
Meanwhile Coleraine showed a ruthless streak in their semi-final win over a vastly experienced Ballinderry side, as they outgunned the Shamrocks 0-10 to 0-3 in the second half for a four point win, 0-15 to 1-5.
With just a one week turnaround to the final both teams will have little time to get over the bumps and bruises from their semi-finals and lay plans for this week’s opposition.
However it is very unlikely the respective game plans will change much at this stage. This will not be a clash of styles, both teams will keep their defences well guarded with numbers back and aim to break forward at pace.
Slaughtneil rely just a little bit more on the longer ball when they break out so Eoghan Rua will not commit too many men forward at any time.
This final is likely to be a very cagey affair, possible low scoring. The team that makes the most of what are likely to be limited opportunities will prosper and come back down the road with the John McLaughlin Cup.
A very strong case can be made for both sides, big game players abounding on both teams. The respective displays of the respective full backs, Liam McGoldrick and Brendan Rogers, the respective centre half-backs Chrissy McKaigue and Sean Leo McGoldrick, the midfield powerhouses Patsy Bradley and Niall Holly and the key forwards Cormac O’Doherty, Sé McGuigan, Paul Bradley and Ciaran McGoldrick, Colm McGoldrick and Gavan McWilliams and the dynamic corner backs Karl McKaigue and Ciaran Mullan will add up to a winning formula but for which team!