AIB Ulster Club Senior Football Championship Final
Slaughtneil 1-15 Cavan Gaels 0-10
Shane McGuigan scored 1-6 as Slaughtneil ran out comfortable winners to secure a third AIB Ulster Club SFC title in four years at the Athletic Grounds.
Cavan Gaels, in the provincial decider for the first time in 40 years, only trailed by 0-7 to 0-4 at the break but the defending champions scored an unanswered 1-3 in seven minutes after half time.
Then Slaughtneil used all their experience to calmly shut the game down and complete an unprecedented ‘double treble’ of back-to-back Ulster hurling, camogie and football titles. They’ll next play Munster champions Nemo Rangers in the All-Ireland semi-finals.
Their victory was as routine as the scoreline suggests, though their wastefulness in the opening half threatened to derail them slightly.
Ronan Bradley missed an easy goal chance and simple point opportunities were also squandered.
Despite all that, they still led 0-6 to 0-1 after 26 minutes including three points in a row from Shane McGuigan through a free and points from play off either foot.
Christopher Bradley and Ronan Bradley also hit points to stretch their lead.
Cavan, massive underdogs coming into the game, started slowly and Martin Dunne’s ’45’, after Anton McMullan blocked Paul O’Connor’s low shot, was their only score for most of the opening half.
They rallied slightly before the interval with three of the last four scores. Seanie Johnston hit a free off his weaker left foot and Dunne hit their first from play in the game in the 29th minute.
Stephen Murray’s point on the run left them trailing by a very manageable three points at half time.
Slaughtneil have made a name for themselves as a moving, third-quarter team and so it proved again and within a devastating seven-minute spell after the break completely put the game to bed.
Chrissy and Karl McKaigue and Brendan Rogers took turns at surging forward from the back and their markers weren’t able to track their runs.
Chrissy McKaigue showed great leadership to settle any half-time concerns with a second minute point.
Brian Cassidy and Ronan Bradley tagged on further points before a brilliant run from Rogers teed up Shane McGuigan for the only goal of the game.
He gathered Rogers’ pass and charged for the near post, slotting the ball low past Ciaran Flynn in the 37th minute.
From six attacks, Slaughtneil had bagged 1-3 which was a more higher conversion rate than the opening half.
Cavan Gaels were unbeaten all season in league and championship up until this point and tried to find a route back into the game.
They briefly managed it with four points in a row, two Johnston frees plus points from Dunne and Niall Smith.
A loose pass, however, halted their momentum as they chased a fifth in succession.
On the counter-attack Slaughtneil went down the field and scored through their in-form forward Shane McGuigan, a left-footed beauty that was possibly his best of the day.
It completely took the wind out of Cavan’s sails and although Niall Murray got a point straight after in the 47th minute, they only managed one more point for the rest of the game with Christopher Bradley having the final say.
Scorers for Slaughtneil: Shane McGuigan 1-6 (2fs), C Bradley 0-3 (1f), R Bradley, B Cassidy 0-2 each, C McKaigue, Se McGuigan 0-1 each
Scorers for Cavan Gaels: M Dunne 0-4, S Johnston 0-3 (3fs), N Murray, S Murray, N Smith 0-1 each.
SLAUGHTNEIL: A McMullan; P McNeill, B Rogers, K McKaigue; F McEldowney, C McKaigue, K Feeney; P Bradley, P Cassidy; R Bradley, Shane McGuigan, G Bradley; C Bradley, Se McGuigan, B Cassidy
Subs: B McGuigan for G Bradley (49), P Kearney for McEldowney (52, BC), P McGuigan for R Bradley (57).
CAVAN GAELS: C Flynn; L Fortune, N Murray, K Meehan; S Murray, B Fortune, L Murphy; P Grahan, R Maloney-Derham; N Smith, M Lyng, D Sexton; P O’Connor, S Johnston, M Dunne.
Subs: D Meehan for P Graham (HT).
REFEREE: Ciaran Branagan (Down).