Sleacht Néill laying new foundations

By Michael McMullan

IT’S all about building for the future insisted Sleacht Néill u-19 captain Jack Cassidy after his side’s championship success on Monday night.

Their measured performance saw the Emmet’s overcome Desertmartin to complete a football and hurling double this season.

Played on their home pitch for a the new Jack Cassidy Cup, it was fitting that Jack Cassidy was the first recipient of his great uncle’s cup, a founding member of the club, after whom he was named.

The original Jack Cassidy Cup was presented to the u-21 football winners and under the new structures, it was handed over for the first time by Derry GAA secretary Sean Keane.

“It means a lot,” said Jack who was in photos as his father Declan presented the original cup in previous years.

After kicking three points – off either foot – in front of a packed Emmet Park, Cassidy spoke with pride of what it meant to be given the honour.

“I never met Jack, but I always heard great stories about him…there was never a bad word spoke about him,” he said. “To lift the cup for him, it just really means a lot for myself, the team and the club.”

After a 1-9 to 0-5 win over Bellaghy, the Emmet’s were two point semi-final winners over neighbours Glen to book their final spot.

Standing in their way was a Desertmartin team powered by Derry senior star Lachlan Murray who amassed 3-15 across their victories over Magherafelt and Dungiven, with the latter needing extra time.

Sleacht Néill were four points ahead before Desertmartin scored with Peter McCullagh sticking to Murray wherever he went.

Murray, who was forced off injured before half time, returned before departing again scene midway through the second half with Sleacht Néill already having one hand on the cup.

“We were in control,” Cassidy said of their performance. “It is something we worked on, just keeping the ball.”

Cassidy said their performance was helped with the core of the side having experience at minor level with Derry and under club senior manager Paul Bradley this season.

“We have boys who knew what they were at and I think that showed,” he added.

McCullagh and Raymond Dillon were part of Derry’s All-Ireland minor winning team of 2020, with Fionn McEldowney and Conor Coyle having featured this season on their way to a narrow semi-final defeat to eventual champions Galway.

MINOR MATTER…Fionn McEldowney’s county experience is rubbing off at club level

“We have a lot of experience for such a young team and it helped,” Cassidy said.

Defenders Eamonn Cassidy and Ruairi Ó Mianáin defended superbly and have played senior club games this season.

It was a first piece of championship silverware at Grade A for a group who featured in “a few B finals” on their way through the ranks.

“The work has gone on the whole way up,” Cassidy said. “It wasn’t all about winning championships from u-14, it was about building for senior and hopefully it all works out.

“At the end of the day, that’s the aim. It is young team and for the boys who have a few years left…once they get on the senior team we’ll see what happens from there.”

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