KILCAR V SLAUGHTNEIL: Best game of football seen in a long time - Eugene McHale

KILCAR V SLAUGHTNEIL: Best game of football seen in a long time - Eugene McHale
Tom Comack sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

Last Saturday night’s Ulster semi-final meeting of Kilcar and Slaughtneil, the Derry and reigning Ulster champions, was a high octane game of football.

There are even those who would argue that it was one of the best games of Gaelic football of the year so far.

One of those is former Mayo footballer and current Donegal referee, Eugene McHale.

McHale, a Connacht championship winner with the green above the red of Mayo, was still hypnotised by the quality of the football fare on show on Tuesday night when speaking to the Democrat.

“It was a great game of football and one the best games I have seen this year if not for a number of years,” said the five time Mayo senior club championship winner with Knockmore.

“It was a game of the highest quality. There were only five wides in the whole game and there were 36 scores kicked in 60 plus minutes of football. What more could you ask for?

“Kilcar kicked three wides and Slaughtneil hit two and their first was in 53rd minute from a free and the second from open play was the last kick of the game.

“The great thing about the game, and something I have noticed in other club games in the provincial championship in the last few weeks, teams are pushing up on the kickout.

“They are no longer giving the defending team an opportunity for the slow build from the back.

“That was the case on Saturday night in Omagh, I think much to the relief of most supporters. I was talking to John McNulty from Kilcar, on the way into the game and he was saying that he was expecting Slaughtneil would go defence.

“I said if that is the case, I’m sorry, I came if that is going to be the case. But thankfully, that could not been further from the truth.

“Slaughtneil attacked from the off and Kilcar responded and we were treated to a great game of football.

“The big difference in the end was Slaughtneil created two goal chances and scored both of them, though the second one should have been a free out.

“Christopher Bradley held the ball for a split second before palming it to the net and secondly he was in the square before the ball,” insisted the current referee.

“In fairness the game was gone from Kilcar at the time. Kilcar will be disappointed to lose and they will look back on those missed goal chances.

“The real winner on Saturday night was Gaelic football. “It had everything, some fantastic point scoring from the two teams.

“It was manly and physical at time and yet there wasn’t a foul stroke in the whole game. It was a game that would restore your faith in Gaelic football and was a good example of what Gaelic football is when played in the right spirit.”

The former Mayo ace forward was also impressed with a number of individual performances. He was particularly impressed with the displays from Kilcar’s Patrick McBrearty and Slaughneil’s Chrissy McKaigue.

“Patrick McBrearty was outstanding and considering he was being marked by Brendan Rodgers, who is the Derry full-back and a good footballer.

“Yet Patrick managed to kick five of his ten points from play and was denied a goal by a good save from the Slaughtneil ‘keeper. He was awesome.

“As for Chrissy McKaigue, he is a brilliant footballer and is blessed with unbelievable speed. There was one stage late in the game and he was soloing up the field with the ball and Eoin McHugh, who also has great pace, could not catch him.

“The thing that amazed me too was that McKaigue and all the Slaughtneil players were so fresh and full of running and played with great energy and intensity.

“I was talking to a Slaughtneil supporter at half-time and he was telling their secret is that they do very little training between games. It certainly is working whatever they are doing because consider their schedule of games between football and hurling in the last couple of seasons has been hectic.

Along with Patrick McBrearty, McHale also singled out Eoin McHugh and Stephen McBrearty when he was moved out the field.

He also felt that Ciaran McGinley, until he suffered a knock that forced him out of the game, and Michael Hegarty were the pick of the Kilcar men.

And he insisted that Kilcar, who won their first Donegal championship in 24 years, will have learned from the experience. He also insisted if they make it back to Ulster next season the experience gained will stand to them.