Lightning quick Slaughtneil too slick for Steelstown Brian Ogs
O'Neill's Derry Senior Football Championship, Group B
Slaughtneil 3-18, Steelstown 0-04
Lightning struck Eoghan Heraghty's posts during the second half of Sunday's Group B opener but it probably still wasn't as quick as some of Slaughtneil's attacking interplay!
As far as re-introductions to the senior championship go, this was a harsh one for All Ireland Intermediate Club champions, Steelstown. Defeat probably wasn't a shock. This was hardly a match Hugh McGrath will have targeted, especially as two of his key forwards only returned from the US in the days building up to the match, but there will be concerns at the ease with which Slaughtneil, even without Brendan Rogers, brushed them aside in the second half especially.
There are levels in every sport and this was a reminder of the gap that Brian Ogs must bridge if they are to compete with the very best in Derry and, in this case, Ulster.
Slaughtneil were simply Slaughtneil. They gave Steelstown the respect of never taking their foot off the pedal and with Christopher Bradley and Shane McGuigan unplayable at times, they went through the gears with an efficiency that suggests they are not about to meekly accept the Glen championship dynasty everyone keeps reminding them is just around the corner. McGuigan hit 2-05, two goals in a minute - part of three Slaughtneil goals in three second half minutes, despite playing the majority of the game in a deeper role which allowed 'Sammy' Bradley to reek first half havoc. Substitute Brendan McEldowney grabbed the other Emmet's goal but the result was already in the bag even before the three majors which arrived during the worst of a passing thunderstorm.
There were positives for Hugh McGrath, primarily getting Cahir McMonagle, Eoghan Bradley and Diarmuid Baker back out on the pitch while Shea Ferguson showed well at times, but a disjointed build-up due to missing players all year was always going to catch you against a side of Slaughtneil's quality. Emmet Park was a harsh environment for the likes of Ferguson, Cormac Mooney, Rory McKeever and Aidan Cutliffe to find their championship feet but those young players will be better for the experience.
The first half on Sunday was all about Christopher Bradley. 'Sammy' hit 0-6, with five from play, as Slaughtneil eased to a 0-10 to 0-02 interval lead they were never going to relinquish.
McGuigan had three first half points without ever seeming to drop it out of second gear, but like a big cat eyeing its prey from a distance, it was only ever a matter of when the county star would strike. We had our answer midway through the second half as the thunder rattled overhead. McGuigan was fouled 20 yards out but while Steelstown questioned the decision and awaited the expected tap over, McGuigan flashed his shot into the top corner before most had even realised the free was awarded.
Slaughtneil had exposed the Steelstown kick-out all afternoon and seconds later, after winning another restart, the ball was back in the Steelstown net for McGuigan's second goal, another accomplished finish. Three minutes later sub Brendan McEldowney produced his own cultured finish and a game that was already over as a contest was now miles out of Steelstown sights at 3-13 to 0-03.
Slaughtneil won't read too much into a game they were expected to win but they look in good shape for another title tilt. Neither will Hugh McGrath be too disappointed at the result, although the ease with which the Emmet's scored will frustrate him. This year was always about experience and finding their senior championship feet for the Brian Ogs and not every side is Slaughtneil. If they can get some of their returning All Ireland heroes up to speed quickly, they can still have a major say in how Group B shapes up.
Slaughtneil scorers: Shane McGuigan (2-5, 1f, 1m), Brendan McEldowney (1-0), Christopher Bradley (0-7, 2f), Peter McCullagh (0-2), Ronan Bradley (0-1), Keelan Feeney (0-1), Shea Cassidy (0-1), Jack Cassidy (0-1)
Steelstown scorers: Ben McCarron (0-2, 1f, 1m), Oran McMenamin (0-1), Cahir McMonagle (0-1)
Slaughtneil: Antoin McMullan, Fionnbarr McGuigan, Chrissy McKaigue, Paul McNeill, Conor McAllister, Karl McKaigue, Keelan Feeney, Patsy Bradley, Ruairi O Mianain, Peter McCullagh, Shane McGuigan, Ronan Bradley, Christopher Bradley, Se McGuigan, Jerome McGuigan. (Subs) Brendan McEldowney for R Bradley, 40mins; Shea Cassidy for J McGuigan, 45mins; Mark McGuigan for P Bradley, 56mins; Jack Cassidy for Se McGuigan, 56mins
Steelstown: Eoghan Heraghty, Oran Fox, Kevin Lindsay, Shea Ferguson, Cormac Mooney, Neil Forester, Oran McMenamin, Shane O'Connor, Ryan Devine, Eoghan Concannon, Rory McKeever, Gareth Logue, Ben McCarron, Emmett Deane, Ruairi Cutliffe. (Subs) Eoghan Bradley for E Concannon, HT; Cahir McMonagle for R Cutliffe, HT; Diarmuid Baker for R McKeever, 36mins; Aidan Cutliffe for E Deane, 49mins;
Referee: JJ Cleary