By Brendan McTaggart
It wasn’t the ending to the season that Gregory O’Kane would have envisaged after the Antrim final win two weeks ago. The Dunloy championship train was derailed by the brilliant juggernaut that is Slaughtnail GAC in front of a packed Owenbeg. Despite a start they would have dreamed about on Saturday night, the Cuchullains struggled in the second quarter. They came up against and faced a slick, athletic and an efficiently awesome side in the Derry champions and on Sunday they went someway to proving to the rest of Ulster that their victory in 2016 was far from a fluke.
The Dunloy manager was still on the Owenbeg pitch when we caught up with him after the game. It’s never easy to digest and analyse so soon after the final whistle but O’Kane told us that the Antrim championship took more out of his squad than they bargained for: “In terms of physicality on the day, they were on a different level to us.
“I think we peaked in the Antrim championship final. It was always going to be serious hard reach those levels that we achieved and played at against Cushendall and in terms of physicality, today was maybe a year or two too early for some of these guys.
“They’re very physical and great athletes, that’s the standard and where we want to get to.”
After the opening quarter, Slaughtneil dominated the semi-final and Dunloy couldn’t find their fast, free flowing game. When asked if that was down to Slaughtneil and the tactics they employed, O’Kane added: “The game was played on Slaughtneil’s terms. If that happens then you’re playing second fiddle when it comes to breaks and chances. You end up snatching at ball and become rushed when you should be more composed. They had that cushion after the first half.”
O’Kane admitted that his side were beaten by the better side on the day but told us that his side will bounce back from this defeat and come back next year with renewed vigour: “They’re serious athletes and they played two Ulster finals before they won one. In terms of experience in the Ulster championship they are definitely ahead of us but this has been a good year for the club in terms of progress and we can build on this and come back stronger.”