Slaughtneil hurler Cormac O’Doherty pictured ahead of his side’s AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship semi-final against Ballygunner of Waterford. This year’s AIB Club Championships celebrate #TheToughest players in Gaelic Games - those who keep going and persevere no matter what, and this Sunday’s showdowns are set to be no exception.
Slaughtneil hurler Cormac O’Doherty pictured ahead of his side’s AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship semi-final against Ballygunner of Waterford. This year’s AIB Club Championships celebrate #TheToughest players in Gaelic Games - those who keep going and persevere no matter what, and this Sunday’s showdowns are set to be no exception. 

Slaughtneil hurlers hope to finally clear semi-final hurdle


By John Harrington

Slaughtneil’s AIB All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship journey has been one of steady improvement.

In the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final they were well beaten by a Cuala team that went on to win the All-Ireland title.

In 2018 they led Munster champions Na Piarsaigh by three points at half-time before falling away in the second-half.

In the 2020 All-Ireland semi-final they showed further progression by coming close to shocking a Ballyhale Shamrocks team that would go on to win back to back All-Irelands.

The question now as they prepare to face Waterford and Munster champions, Ballygunner, in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final is whether they can continue this upward trajectory and finally reach an All-Ireland Club Hurling Final for the first time?

Team captain, Cormac O’Doherty, believes they’re getting better all the time, but knows too that if they’re to overcome a talented Ballygunner side they’ll have to deliver the complete performance on Sunday.

“From our first venture to our third one, we have got closer and closer. We would like to think we've improved individually and collectively and hopefully that will come to fruition on Sunday,” says Doherty.

“Nobody expects to win a game at this level with 30 or 40 good minutes. It has to be a 65 minute performance. We had 35 against Na Piarsaigh. Ballyhale was closer to what we want but this time it'll have to be 65 minutes because we've seen how good they are. We'll have to be on it for the whole game if we want to match them.

“We'd like to think we've improved over the last few years. How you gauge improvement is how far you've gotten in competitions. We've got to this stage before so we're as good as we used to be. Are we any better?

“We'll only find out on Sunday because it's a results business and if we lose on Sunday, we're only as good as we used to be, no better.”

TJ Reid of Ballyhale Shamrocks in action against Shane McGuigan of Slaughtneil in the 2020 AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship semi-final.
TJ Reid of Ballyhale Shamrocks in action against Shane McGuigan of Slaughtneil in the 2020 AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship semi-final.

One factor in favour of Slaughtneil’s dual stars is that they’ve been able to solely focus on hurling training in recent weeks after defeat to Glen in the Derry Senior Football Final.

“Definitely,” says O’Doherty. “It has been a big advantage on that front, to dedicate the time to hurling only.

“You see players improving weekly in training. It's just, is that five or six weeks enough to get us to the required level? We don't know. We'll only find out on Sunday.”

There’s no doubt that the Ballygunner team they’ll face on Sunday are as serious outfit as illustrated by their demolition of Kilmallock in the AIB Munster Club SHC Final.

What will it take for Slaugtneil to upset the odds and stop the Waterford club in their tracks?

“Good question,” says O’Doherty. “We've seen what they've done through Waterford the last eight years and Munster too. This year they've been very impressive again. I suppose it's just about bringing our game to it. A high work-rate, trying to perform ourselves.

“If we worry too much about Ballygunner we'll forget about ourselves so we're focused on ourselves to bring our best performance to see where that takes us.

“Both teams are well accustomed to winning. They've been knocking on the door, they've been unlucky in a few Munsters so, like ourselves, they're looking to take the next step but there can only be one winner and it should be a good battle.

“Ballygunner made the Kilmallock game look very easy so they'll be ready for us and hopefully we'll be ready for them.”