Slaughtneil 1-14 (Derry) Ballycran (Down) 0-10
Slaughtneil picked up their fourth Ulster senior hurling title in five seasons against Ballycran in Corrigan Park.
The Derry champions missed out last season due to Covid but they are undoubtedly the best team in the province. After overcoming Dunloy in a pulsating semi final last weekend, Slaughtneil used a measured approach in the showpiece, gradually growing into the decider before eventually overwhelming the Down champions in the finish.
Brendan Rogers smashed home a 51st minute goal to put the seal on the victory.
It was seven weeks since 'Cran' claimed their county title, however rustiness was not apparent in the opening sequence of play. Centre forward Stuart Martin fizzed over a sideline in front of their vocal following in the opening minute.That long lay off allowed them to fly into tackles and Slaughtneil looked flat early on.
Phelim Savage and Conor Woods found the range with free as the underdogs momentum was showing with a lead at the first water break stage. Shane McGuigan and Chrissy McKaigue showed leadership to respond with excellent points against the run of play for the holders.
McKaigue was picked up by cornerback Michael Hughes allafternoon in an intriguing battle.Slaughtneil's ability to stay in the game bore fruit in the second quarter when they lifted the tempo to take a commanding lead into half time. Cormac O’Doherty fired over four points in that period from free’s.
The distance he struck them highlighted his side's determination. Hughes did land Ballycran’s only point from play at the end of the first half to make it a three point game 0-09 to 0-06. However, Jamie Fowler’s side would rue their wide count when they were on top, come the second half. Slaughtneil played with a ruthlessness upon the resumption.
O’Doherty again on hand to profit and push the game beyond Ballycran with two more frees. Phelim Savage did respond but Michael McShane’s were in complete control at this stage.In reaching the final, Brendan Rogers was the star performer in the middle of the field. This time he drifted into the edge of the square from midfield and shone again. Firing over a wonderful score before the second half water break and then sealing the game with a decisive goal.
Isolated one on one inside, Rogers burned his marker Gerard Hughes before shrugging off a heavy hit from a covering Michael Ennis to bury to the back of the net. With ten minutes to play the goal made it 1-13 to 0-07 and Slaughtneil could savour every minute of their fourth title.
Ballycran, to their credit, rolled up their sleeves to land the game's final three scores. Ben Arthurs with the pick of them after Gerard Hughes was sent off for a second yellow card.
Captain O’Doherty was masterful again with his placing taking said in his speech that "this is the start of something special".
With the Four Seasons cup already in the bag before Christmas, they’ll take on either Ballygunner or Killmallock in the All-Ireland series in January.
Slaughtneil: Oisín O'Doherty, Karl McKaigue, Sean Cassidy, Paul McNeill; Conor McAllister, Shane McGuigan (0-01), Meehaul McGrath; Brendan Rodgers (1-01), Chrissy McKaigue (0-01); Mark McGuigan, Cormac O'Doherty (0-07, 0-06f), Brian Cassidy; Gerald Bradley; Jerome McGuigan (0-02), Sé McGuigan (0-01).
Subs Used: Jack Cassidy (0-01) for J McGuigan (54), Shea Cassidy for Rogers (56), Gareth O’Kane for M McGuigan (61)
Ballycran: Stephen Keith; Seán Ennis, Michael Ennis, Brad Watson, Gerard Hughes, Conor Woods (0-02, 0-02f), Brett Nicholson; Michael Hughes (0-01), Phelim Savage (0-05, 0-05f); Liam Savage, Stuart Martin (0-01, 0-01s/l), Niall Breen; James Clarke, Ben Arthurs (0-01), Christopher Egan.
Subs Used: Cormac McAlister for Breen (43) Scott Nicholson for Egan (47).
Referee: Colm McDonald (Donegal)