Kilcar's Ciaran McGinley is grounded during the Ulster semi-final against Slaughtneil. Photo Thomas Gallagher
Can Kilcar ever reach Slaughtneil standard?
That was the question which was in my head as I drove home from Healy Park, Omagh on Saturday night last. I had just watched a cracker of a club game with Slaughtneil worthy winners against a Kilcar team who went home wondering ‘what if’.
They had lost by six points, but didn’t avail of any of their four or five goal chances. The best of those fell to Patrick McBrearty in the opening half and Conor Doherty in the second. It is an area which was a troublesome part of their game early in the season but then towards the end of the championship, they seemed to have sorted.
But it would be wrong to assume that even if they had taken two of the chances, that Slaughtneil would not have responded. They just knew how to control the game.
Maybe the only short period that they lost their composure was just before half-time and Kilcar were clinical in punishing at that stage. Indeed, the half-time whistle came at the wrong time for the Donegal men.
For their seventh point (scored by Cormac O’Doherty) Slaughtneil strung 33 passes together, working the opening through patient play. It was a stunning passage of play.
The other clinical aspect of their game is the speed of transition from back to front, and in the second half they looked fitter than any intercounty team.
And yet Kilcar troubled them, thanks in the main to the leadership of Patrick McBrearty, and the direct running of Eoin McHugh. Slaughtneil had their homework done and tried to stop McHugh by any manner, but they were unable to stop McBrearty, who put in an awesome performance. Patsy Bradley knew what he was doing when he dived in on Ciaran McGinley when he was shooting for his point; Bradley’s ‘tackle’ took McGinley out and it wasn’t punished. Keelan Feeney had three or four fouls on Eoin McHugh but wasn’t carded until close to the end.
You could add in that the second Slaughtneil goal should have been disallowed, but you still couldn’t make an argument that they were not the better side. I have no doubt that they would defeat a good number of intercounty sides with something to spare.
Kilcar have proved that they have the scoring power to be a factor at Ulster level. But to take the club to the next level, they will have to improve in other areas. They have a number of young players who are close to senior level and getting them to the pitch required should be their goal. They will need Mickey Hegarty and Conor McShane to stay on to help with the transition, and the club should do all in their power to keep Barry Doherty at the helm, because he has taken them to within a whisker of Ulster glory. I have no doubt that Slaughtneil will go on and win Ulster and they will be hard to stop for All-Ireland success. They are a club that seem to be driven and after Saturday night, Kilcar know what is required if they are to scale those heights.
Can they reach the level of Slaughtneil? I have no doubt that there is improvement in quite a number of last Saturday night’s performances. The sacrifice involved is just the same as intercounty standard and for amateurs that is not easy. It seems to be in-bred into the Slaughtneil club and whether Kilcar can match that remains to be seen.
But for now we, as a county, should be proud of the way Kilcar represented us this year. They have to go back and win Donegal first next year and after that, who knows?
Two Classics in two days
After Saturday night’s classic, it was off to MacCumhaill Park on Sunday for the Donegal U-16B final between the two Red Hugh clubs in the county - Aodh Ruadh and Red Hugh’s.
And this game didn’t disappoint either. Indeed, a draw would have been a fair result, but the Ballyshannon boys came back from the dead to win by a point (1-16 to 2-12). Red Hugh’s led three times in the first half and then came from five points down at the end of the third quarter to lead on three more occasions, but still went down.
It wasn’t always top quality, but for pure end to end football, it was as good as it gets. There were great scores, three great goals, some great blocking and players looking comfortable on the ball. One of the highlights was a piece of high fielding by the diminutive David Doherty.
The fighting spirit shown by both teams to come back when faced with adversity was admirable.
I have no doubt that we will hear more about these players in the future.
No Russian adventure
The marauding Danes did it again. It’s not the first time that they have invaded Ireland, but this time we left the door open for them. The result in the end was embarrassing. We probably scored too early. Defending a 0-0 is our forte; defending a lead never has been.
It will be a case of back to the drawing board but our own Seamie Coleman will be back and we can look forward to qualifying for the next Euros.
The only positive: We won’t have to listen to Dunphy and Brady telling us how good we could be if our players were allowed to play!