By Shaun Casey
SLEACHT NÉILL need no convincing of the task ahead of them on Sunday as they take on Ulster champions Loughgiel.
The sides know each other inside out at this stage, clashing regularly in the provincial competition.
The most recent battle was last year’s Ulster final, which Loughgiel won before going on to reach the All-Ireland final, losing to Sarsfields of Galway.
“Any defeat hurts, on that particular day they (Sleacht Néill) were flat and couldn’t get going and all that type of stuff,” said boss Dominic McKinley, in his first year in charge.
“But, as I always say, I watch the Premier League and the Manchester Citys and Arsenals and Uniteds are getting paid hundreds of thousands of pounds and on different days they’re flat.
“These experts can come up with reasons for it, some days that happens in life and sport. Sometimes it’s very hard to find the answers for it but we’ve got to come up with little things and nuggets and find these things that we can improve on and help each other.
“I’m sure they’re hurting and want to put things right, but we also realise how big a task ahead it is, it’s a massive task.
“Loughgiel have improved immensely, and their ambition is to probably win the All-Ireland.
“They got to the final last year, and I would say they’re hoping to get back there again. We want to get there too as a club, we’d like to be in the mix, but something will have to give.”
The Derry champions will be without a number of their star names such as Grainne O’Kane, Therese Mellon and Tina Bradley as they look to overcome the reigning champions.
McKinley insists that the Ulster Championship is a competition that the former All-Ireland champions feel very strongly about and even though they didn’t have the best start to the season, they have built steadily throughout the year.
“We’re all looking forward to it,” added the former Derry hurling manager.
“At the start of the year we had to re-furnish because we lost one or two players and that wasn’t an ideal situation to be coming back into.
“We played the first game against Lavey, I think we got beat and suppose you could have thought ‘here, maybe I’m in the wrong place.’
“But now as the year went on, we gradually improved. We had parts of jigsaw to fill ; we had a full-back and a corner-back to come up with and so on. Gradually we filled those places and the Derry championship, we wanted to win that one again.
“The Ulster Championship is a special thing and has been a special thing for us over past eight or nine years and it’s another opportunity for us.
“With Loughgiel last year, I wasn’t there but they beat Sleacht Néill well. So, we have a lot of work to do to make sure we’re on the ball for this Sunday.”