Slaughtneil 3-23, Kevin Lynch's 1-09
The Fr. Collins Cup must be extremely comfortable in the Emmet Park trophy cabinet at this point!
The most inevitable of Derry's Championship titles was decided in Owenbeg on Sunday as Slaughtneil served notice that their decade of dominance is far from over as they secured a record 11th straight Derry county title. You have to go back to 2012 and Swatragh to find a team other than the Robert Emmet's winning the premium Oak Leaf hurling title. And this one was never close!
Ten points up before Lynch's troubled the scoreboard, the game was over as a contest even before the break and while Kevin Lynch's deserve credit for refusing to accept their fate, this Slaughtneil panel is one different level from everything else in Derry.
Brendan Rogers hit 3-02 and could have had more goals, Cormac O'Doherty controlled the game, Meehaul McGrath covered every blade and Ruairi O Mianain already looks star in the making. But it was the players not involved that probably said more about Slaughgtneil's status.
Shane McGuigan has yet to hit a hurling ball in anger this year; Jerome McGuigan was injured. Chrissy McKaigue was unused substitute on a bench that included the likes of Shea Cassidy and Se McGuigan. The list goes on!
The subdued celebrations illustrated the Emmet's ambitions have now moved beyond their native county and the only negative from Sunday's final is that it will be their final competitive match before the Ulster final which is a full six weeks away.
“I think it’s scandalous, to be fair, but it is what it is," said Slaughtneil manager Mickey McShane afterwards when asked about the scheduling, "Those are the cards we’re dealt. The good thing is the boys can go now and focus on the football championship.
"We’ve a lot of dual players and for the next few weeks they’ll focus on that. We’ll keep hurling away, we won’t be stopping hurling, but for the next few weeks their mental focus can be on the football. Then at a certain point we’ll have to get our heads together and once we have an idea who we’re playing, we can really start to get focused and prepare for that Ulster final. It’s great, middle of September and we’ve an Ulster final to look forward to in December.
“I think (there’s) a bit of blame on both sides. Derry, we played our last group game last weekend and this week we’re playing a final. I don’t think that’s fair. Somebody picks up a bit of a knock last week and they’re out of the final, it’s very unfair on them.
"Thankfully it didn’t happen but I also think the Ulster final should be coming this way because whoever wins it only has two weeks to prepare for an All-Ireland semi-final. Why not play it a couple of weeks earlier and whoever wins it will have more time to prepare for the All-Ireland semi-final? I think a bit of give and take on both sides will help.”
As for the game itself, any semblance of belief that Lynch's could end the Emmet's dominance of Oak Leaf hurling had all but evaporated inside 20 minutes with Slaughtneil seven points to no score up. It wasn't that Lynch's weren't in the game but from their first four shots, two wides and two shorts only increased the pressure on them to stay in the game.
And with Peter McCullagh, Mark McGuigan (2), Eamon Cassidy, Cormac O'Doherty (2f) and Ruairi O'Mianain - with probably the score of the game - hitting the target the game got away from the Dungiven men before they ever had a foothold.
By half-time the lead was 0-13 to 0-1 and while Lynch's emerged determined to put up more of a fight, the more chances they took pressing in attack, they more it left them susceptible to Slaughtneil's rich array of attacking talent.
Rogers' opening goal duly arrived three minutes after the restart, the dual star accelerating down the inside right before finishing low past Liam Hinphey. His second came six minutes later, Paddy Kelly this time unable to keep up with Rogers as he engineered space to find the far corner.
The hat-trick was completed in routine fashion after Peter McCullagh's shot brought a great save from Hinphey only for the ball to roll perfectly into the path of Rogers who couldn't miss. He had other chances too, one bringing a superb stop from Hinphey.
Lynch's, with Corey O'Reilly and Richie Mullan grabbing all their points, did hit the net themselves though Ronan Mullan who was operating inside despite wearing No. 4 but it was a mere footnote on Slaughtneil's historic day. With 11 in the cabinet, it would take a brave man to bet against them being back for 12 next season!
Slaughnteil scorers: Cormac O'Doherty (0-8, 6f, 1 '65'), Brendan Rogers (3-2), Peter McCullagh (0-2), Mark McGuigan (0-2), Ruairi O Mianain (0-3), Eamon Cassidy (0-2), Gerald Bradley (0-2), Jack Cassidy (0-1), Sean O'Doherty (0-1).
Kevin Lynch's scorers: Ronan Mullan (1-0), Richie Mullan 0-5, 2f, 2 '65'), Corey O'Reilly (0-4).
Slaughtneil: Oisin O’Doherty; Paul McNeill, Sean Cassidy, James McCloskey; Conor McAllister, Ruairi Ó Mianáin, Meehaul McGrath; Brendan Rogers, Gerald Bradley; Jack Cassidy, Mark McGuigan, Eamon Cassidy; Cormac O'Doherty, Peter McCullagh, Karl McKaigue. (Subs) Michael McEldowney for P McNeill, 46mins; Shea Cassidy for K McKaigue, 48mins; Sean O'Doherty for Eamon Cassidy, 58mins;
Kevin Lynch’s: Liam Hinphey; Niall McGonigle, Paddy Kelly, Ronan Mullan; Richie Mullan, Mark Craig, Darragh McGilligan; Thomas Brady, Steven O’Neill; Corey O’Reilly, Sean Kelly, Eoghan Cassidy; Eoin McKeever, Tiarnan McHugh, John Mullan. (Subs) Odhran McElhinney for S Kelly, 33mins; Seamus Higgins for E McKeever, 45mins;
Referee: Eamon Hasan (Swatragh)