Jude Donnelly celebrates Glen's win over Slaughtneil. (Pic: Mary K Burke)
Slaughtneil have lost two Derry senior championship games since the start of 2014 and the man that spearheaded two of them revealed the secret to toppling the Emmet’s.
Glen boss Jude Donnelly was at the Lavey helm in 2015 when they sunk the Slaughtneil before Mickey Moran’s men retained the John McLaughlin Cup through the back door.
Those memories were at the forefront of Donnelly’s mind as he plotted Glen’s path to their first every county final.
“We got two goals that night,” recalls of Lavey’s 2015 win. “Slaughtneil are a formidable side and to do that (beat them), you’ve got to hit the net, points aren’t enough. They will peg away and they will get a goal in every game.
“We talked about it this week and I said at training – if we are going to beat Slaughtneil we’d have to hit the net twice or three times. We did a lot of work on creating goal chances. Our matchups today were good and it worked and on other days you don’t get hitting the net.”
Sunday’s epic saw a host of goal chances with Sean Ó Caiside denying Conleth McGuckin and Eunan Mulholland goals that could’ve put the rank outsiders in total control.
“We could have won the game by eight or nine and we could’ve have as easily lost the game. The two balls cleared off the line was the turning point in the game,” Donnelly pointed out of Ciaran McFaul and Emmett Bradley’s interventions on the closing minutes.
The former Bellaghy forward, whose now lives in Lavey, felt that hard running and ‘honesty’ was the way of getting inside Slaughtneil’s cover.
He also pointed to the Emmet’s epic hurling final against Kevin Lynch’s the previous week.
“It was probably tough on them, where we had a bit of freshness,” Donnelly commented.
“I felt that every time, we sucked Slaughtneil out a wee bit. We knew that we would have the legs in there.”
One surprise in Glen selection was Conleth McGuckin who was making his full senior debut, despite still being a minor.
“It is probably I fault I have, is that I seem to play a lot of youth,” Donnelly admitted. “Don’t get me wrong, it take the older boys to get you over the line. This is one of the biggest pitches about and playing in Owenbeg, you have to prepare in that way. You have got to have legs.
“Probably everybody is shocked at Conleth starting but he didn’t let us down. He was superb, but he is a wee man in stature. I just felt that over the last ween of weeks, weren’t getting enough breaks around that middle sector.
“Twin (Frank) McEldowney was huge for Slaughtneil the last three or four years at getting breaking ball so that was one of the reasons why Conleth went in today and he didn’t let us down.”
It was Donnelly’s first year in charge of the Watties but in the club’s finest hour, he paid tribute to those who came before him.
“I am been lucky coming in as a new manager, Enda (Gormley) has done huge work with these boys and I am lucky to get the benefit of that.”
After coming back from the brink to beat both Loup and Lavey, Sunday’s win over a team had a special significance with the club’s breakthrough.
“There is a belief in this team, but nothing is won yet. We have to go for 60 minutes against Magherafelt, who are sitting in the same boat as ourselves, I don’t think they have been in a county final (since 1983) and Magherafelt is hungry for success too.
“In fairness the underage around Magherafelt the last few years has been very good. They won and U21 (championship last year) so you can’t take Magherafelt lightly. It is going to be a huge game. The boys just have to go to battle for another 60 minutes.”
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