Split season is way forward insists Shane McGuigan as Slaughtneil grab title No. 10

Slaughtneil captain Cormac O’Doherty lifts the Derry Senior Hurling Championship trophy after their victory over Kevin Lynch’s  in Owenbeg on Sunday. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2239GS – 024Slaughtneil captain Cormac O’Doherty lifts the Derry Senior Hurling Championship trophy after their victory over Kevin Lynch’s  in Owenbeg on Sunday. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2239GS – 024
Slaughtneil captain Cormac O’Doherty lifts the Derry Senior Hurling Championship trophy after their victory over Kevin Lynch’s in Owenbeg on Sunday. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2239GS – 024
Shane McGuigan believes the GAA’s split season is proving a major success for clubs like Slaughtneil and for dual players trying to balance the demands of both codes.

McGuigan was superb for the Emmet’s in Sunday’s 2-18 to 1-08 victory over old foes Kevin Lynch’s, a result that secured Slaughtneil a record TENTH Derry senior hurling title in succession and McGuigan another medal to add to the Ulster Senior Football championship one he picked up with Derry in May. It’s fast becoming a year to remember for the football All Star nominee who believes he’s reaping the rewards of the new season structure.

“It (the split season) has been brilliant for us,” explained McGuigan following his ‘Man of the Match’ display in Owenbeg, “To be fair to, especially to Mickey (McShane), Paul (Bradley) on the football side of things, he could see we were always going to get very good football training but for six months we didn’t really have a hurl in our hand.

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“And to be fair to Mickey McShane, there was no pressure put on us. He had belief in us that we would get the work done prior to the championship. We had a good six to eight weeks of training and it definitely did work in our favour, just having that focus on county. Obviously we were touching base with club, going to matches and nipping down to training and such but there was no pressure put on us to have a hurl in our hands or anything like that. Coming back in, there is just a complete freshness to us and you are hungry to get back at the club playing hurling and football.”

McGuigan smiled as he admitted he comes in for a bit of ‘stick’ from his clubmates at times for concentrating too much on the ‘size five’ when it comes to practise.

“It can become a bit of a joke too because the boys would say I practise too much on the football whereas Chrissy and Brendan would maybe have a hurl a bit more in their hands,” laughs McGuigan, “But no, you always try to keep touch a bit. No training or anything like that and it is something that has definitely worked in our favour.

“For a few years it was tough going, trying to balance both and focus on the league games, there were some county league games overlapping with club games and it was just a bit of a mess but I think this is the way forward.”

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“It is something Mickey has talked to me about,” he adds, “He has said he wants to play me further forward this year but a few of the boys have been keeping me going, saying it won’t be long until I am detailing someone again (laughs) but, no, Mickey said he is trusting the six defenders.

“I think we are going with a bit more of an offensive approach this year so he’s putting a lot of emphasis on us players and on man to man marking. To be fair to Conor McAllister, I couldn’t have defended any better, he pushed Conor Kelly to the sideline and they were just two wonder points. Odhran McKeever hit another wonder point so we were happy enough with our defenders and how they dealt with the situation.

“But yeah, it’s something Mickey talked to me about. He started me at centre-half. I had said I would like to play further forward in the midfield and he came back one better and said he wanted to play me in the half forward line.

“It has definitely given me a bit more freedom. Going forward I think I can add a bit more to this team offensively rather than just worrying about defence but we will worry about that in the future.”

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And paying tribute to the impact Brendan Rogers had off the bench, McGuigan said his fellow dual star could grace any hurling team in Ireland.

“I’m sure if the Derry hurling managers were here they would be pulling their hair out to get him up at the county. He is a different operator, he is some animal and wouldn’t look out of place on any county team in Ireland and I don’t say that lightly. He’s unbelievable.

“Knowing we have that to come off the bench, and I think Peter McCullagh had a brilliant impact on the game too. He came on and hit I think two points and set up another few. Mickey has made no bones about it, he’s said it is the hardest panel - not even team - the hardest panel to get in. You could see that we have reinforcements coming off the bench which can only stand to us. Boys know if you are going to get a spot you have to earn it. That can only work to our advantage.”

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