Ulster Club SHC: Brendan Rogers overcomes sickness to inspire Slaughtneil win over Dunloy

Slaughtneil see off Dunloy to reach Ulster Club hurling final

Brendan Rogers overcame sickness to hit 1-4 and seal Slaughtneil's place in another Ulster Club SHC final after a deserved 1-18 to 0-14 win over Dunloy.

Aided by five Cormac O'Doherty frees, the wind-assisted Emmet's led 0-9 to 0-6 at half time at the Athletic Grounds.

That advantage was stretched to seven by the end of the third quarter after a brilliant scoring burst from Rogers.

"The amazing thing is that Brendan spent the week being sick," revealed Slaughtneil boss Michael McShane.

"He didn't train with us this week, he had a bad vomiting bug which had left him quite weak on Thursday and Friday, but Brendan's a superb athlete, he looks after himself well.

"I thought he was slow getting into the game, I was being super critical of him, but we moved him into midfield and asked him to get on ball and run at them and he delivered, he was absolutely superb, as was nearly every other man on the pitch."

When the sides met in the 2019 final, Slaughtneil simply proved too strong as they ran out eight-point winners, but there had been concerns over captain O'Doherty's fitness in the build-up to Sunday's game after he suffered a shoulder injury in the county final win over Kevin Lynch's Dungiven in October.

But, like Rogers, O'Doherty made a full recovery and typically played a key role as he split the posts from placed balls on five occasions to help Slaughtneil lead by three at the break.

That came after a relatively sluggish start by the Derry side with captain Paul Shiels and Keelan Molloy raising early white flags to get Dunloy up and running.

O'Doherty's first free and Chrissy McKaigue's point pegged the Cuchullains back, however, and while Deaglan Smith replied for Gregory O'Kane's side, that proved to be their last score for 20 minutes as Slaughtneil assumed command under the lights in Armagh.

The holders surged into a six-point lead by hitting seven unanswered scores either side of the first-half water break, four of which came courtesy of O'Doherty's devastating free-taking accuracy.

Dunloy dug deep, however, and hit the last three scores of an absorbing first half with two coming from the impressive Eoin O'Neill in the half-forward line.

'Relief' for goalscorer Rogers as Slaughtneil beat Dunloy

Rogers takes centre stage

The Antrim club, whose last provincial triumph came back in 2009, started the second half strongly and managed to reduce the deficit to one thanks to two Conal Cunning frees and a Paul Shiels score before Rogers took centre stage.

Having been shifted back into midfield, he managed to split the posts from the right wing after being found by Jerome McGuigan, which was swiftly followed by another unerring O'Doherty free.

Rogers then pounced to score the game's only goal, firing home from close range after Dunloy keeper Ryan Elliott had done well to deny Brian Cassidy.

With confidence coursing through his veins, Rogers sent another two missiles over the bar - the second a superb strike from distance after riding a robust challenge from Aaron Crawford - to put Slaughtneil seven up at the second drinks break.

The Derry club's lead proved insurmountable for Dunloy, who managed to reduce the arrears to four before O'Doherty's seventh and final free and Jack Cassidy and Meehaul McGrath scores wrapped up a well-deserved Slaughtneil win with Oisin O'Doherty also contributing late on with a fine save, beating away a high bouncing ball to keep the Antrim outfit at bay.

"I probably haven't seen as gutsy a performance [from Slaughtneil]," added McShane.

"At half time I'd say most people thought we were done and dusted because that was a seven, eight-point wind out there and we only led by three.

"But we reset, changed the set-up and asked the lads 'let's dig and worked a little bit harder than we have been' and they responded and I thought they were absolutely superb in the second half."

The result brought some much-needed joy to Slaughtneil's travelling supporters after the camogs' defeat by Oulart-The Ballagh in Meath earlier on Sunday.

They now hope to secure their fourth provincial crown in five years when they take on 2018 beaten finalists Ballycran on 19 December.