AIB Ulster Club Senior Hurling Championship Final
Slaughtneil 1-14 Ballycran 0-10
Derry champions Slaughtneil collected their fourth Ulster Senior Hurling title in five years when they beat Down kingpins Ballycran in Sunday’s provincial decider at Corrigan Park, Belfast.
When these two last met in the 2018 semi-final the men from the Ards caused a real shock by dethroning the Derry men, but although they made a promising start again on Sunday they were never really fluid at any time in the game, and only scored two points from play during the hour’s hurling.
Slaughtneil took a while to get going but once they found their feet they always looked the most likely to succeed. Ballycran were not out of it, but they needed a goal, or a run of points, to get them going and in truth neither really looked like coming. A few of the Slaugtneil fans may have felt a bit anxious at times but when Brendan Rodgers fired in a brilliant goal ten minutes from time those doubts were all gone.
Slaughtneil’s defence kept the Ardsmen in check, except for the opening ten minutes, at the end of which the men in black and amber led by 0-3 to 0-1. Slowly but surely the Derry champions began to find their feet and points from Chrissy McKaigue and Cormac O’Doherty soon had them level. The pushed on from this point and outscored their opponents by 2 to 1 between then and half time, at which point they lead by 0-9 to 0-6
With the Slaughtneil defence giving nothing away the Derry men were able to stretch their lead with two points from frees by Cormac O’Doherty. Centre forward O’Doherty then turned provider when a brilliant long range pass found Brendan Rodgers and the left half forward soloed up the right wing before cutting in towards goal and sending a left sided strike past Stephen Keith in the Ballycran goal.
Substitute Jack Cassidy added another in the final minutes and though the Ards men came back with one at the other end in injury time, the maroon ribbons were already on the cup.
Maybe not their most convincing display by Mickey McShane’s men, but they were in control of the game for most of the hour. They will face a much stiffer challenge in five weeks’ time when they take on the Munster champions in the All Ireland semi-final, but they will relish the challenge and with another game under their belts they will raring to go in the New Year.
Ballycran will be disappointed with their display. They know they can play much better than they did on Sunday, but they were hampered with the long lay-off between winning the Down title and facing Sunday’s opponents. Coming in cold to face a team of Slaughtneil’s quality is far from ideal and something will need to be done to streamline county championships in such a way that teams are not idle for such a long time.
Teams & Scorers:
Slaughtneil: Oisin O’Doherty, Karl McKaigue, Sean Cassidy, Paul McNeill, Shane McGuigan (0-1), Conor McAllister, Meehaul McGrath, Gerald Bradley, Christopher McKaigue (0-1), Mark McGuigan, Cormac O’Doherty (0-7 6f), Brendan Rodgers (1-1), Sé McGuigan (0-1), Jerome McGuigan (0-2), Brian Cassidy.
Replacements: Jack Cassidy (0-1) for J McGuigan (53), Shea Cassidy for Rodgers (56), Gareth O’Kane for M McGuigan (60)
Yellow Cards: J McGuigan (52)
Ballycran: Stepehen Keith, Brad Watson, Sean Ennis, Michael Hughes (0-1), Brett Nicholson, Conor Woods (0-2f), Michael Ennis, Gerard Hughes, Phelim Savage (0-5f), Liam Savage, Stuart Martin (0-1 Sideline), Niall Breen, James Clarke, Ben Arthurs (0-1), Christopher Egan.
Replacements: Cormac McAllister for Breen (43), Scott Nicholson for Egan (47)
Yellow Cards: S Ennis (10), B Nicholson (35) G Hughes (50 & 60)
Red Cards: G Hughes (60)
Referee: Mr Colm McDonald (Antrim)