Brendan Rogers grabs key scores to help Slaughtneil retain Ulster title

Derry champions prove too strong for Down side Ballycran in Belfast

Slaughtneil (Derry) 1-14 Ballycran (Down) 0-10

A stunning goal and a point either side of the second-half water-break from Brendan Rogers provided some light on a dreary Ulster hurling final as Slaughtneil overcame Ballycran at Corrigan Park in Belfast on Sunday to retain their title.

The result was never in doubt from a long way out as the Derry champions overcame a leggy opening quarter to dominate the provincial showpiece. Rogers, however, took it upon himself to duly seal the final anyway in the 51st minute.

With Ballycran pushing for an opening, Michael McShane's side countered perfectly. The county footballer found himself isolated in oceans of space with only his marker Gerard Hughes for company. Rogers injected the required pace, rounded Hughes, and shipped a heavy belt from the covering Michael Ennis before firing home a superb goal.

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Slaughtneil sub Jack Cassidy did tag on another point but Slaughtneil could ease themselves over the line to their fourth title. And with that they overtook opponents Ballycran in the Ulster roll of honours list.

Cran won their county final at Halloween and with that rest they fired into the game with sheer abandon. Leading at the first-half water-break by only a point, 0-4 to 0-3, was a blow, as the Down champions had played all the hurling but suffered from some rusty shooting.

Cormac O'Doherty played a captain's role with five first-half points to regain control of the scoreboard. His long-range accuracy was a joy as Ballycran could not find the range from play until a late Michael Hughes score that made it 0-9 to 0-6 at half-time.

O’Doherty extended that lead upon the resumption and Rogers extended Slaughtneil’s hold on the Four Seasons cup with his match-winning blitz. Ballycran did finish strong with three late points after Gerard Hughes picked up a second yellow card.

Munster champions Killmallock or Ballygunner now await the Ulster kingpins in the new year.

SLAUGHTNEIL: O O'Doherty; K McKaigue, S Cassidy, P McNeill; C McAllister, Shane McGuigan (0-1), M McGrath; B Rogers (1-1), C McKaigue (0-1); M McGuigan, C O'Doherty (0-7, six frees), B Cassidy; G Bradley; J McGuigan (0-2), Sé McGuigan (0-1).

Subs: J Cassidy (0-1) for J McGuigan (54 mins), S Cassidy for Rogers (56), G O'Kane for M McGuigan (61).

BALLYCRAN: S Keith; S Ennis, M Ennis, B Watson; G Hughes, C Woods (0-2, two frees), B Nicholson; M Hughes (0-1), P Savage (0-5, five frees); L Savage, S Martin (0-1, s/l), N Breen; J Clarke, B Arthurs (0-1), C Egan.

Subs: C McAlister for Breen (43 mins) S Nicholson for Egan (47).

Referee: C McDonald (Antrim)