If he wasn’t still there, you’d hardly blame him.
At the end of January this year, Slaughtneil’s hurlers did their bit to produce another classic in the All-Ireland semi-final. They provided thrills and spills and Brendan Rodgers even invented hurling’s ‘Cruyff turn’, going to lift off the ground but quickly changing direction by flicking the sliotar through his legs to fool his opponent.
But by the end, the scoreline had Ballygunner five points to the good.
There was no comfort as the Waterford club went on to win the final, Harry Ruddle’s late bouncing shot to beat Ballyhale to the net. They had the same thing when the All-Ireland series was played in early 2020 when Ballyhale beat them in Newry and won it.
So when Slaughtneil manager Michael McShane collected himself and walked out of the Parnell Park dressing room, he must already be assessing things.
Seven years in the job. Six dairy titles. Four Ulsters. Still not in an All-Ireland final. What more to do? Find out from others if he was still human.
“I definitely thought long and hard about it. But I think long and hard about it every year, especially the last three or four,” McShane says.
The one thing that kept him there was the effort put in so far. Building and refining backroom teams. The hours spent up and down the road to Ballycastle and the strong bond he and his family have formed with the club in South Derry.
“We always take time to think things through and there are always interested parties in the Slaughtneil players, the club committee, my own family. People you need to talk to, to make sure you continue, if it’s the right decision.
“But, if you walk away from it, it’s the right decision,” he explains.
“Most importantly, the players were very keen to be with us as a management team. That is probably the biggest factor of all. If the players are happy with you, you can definitely go ahead. If they are not happy with you, there is no point in trying to move on.
“I spoke to my own family. It’s a big commitment. But it’s also a lot of fun. A once in a lifetime opportunity to manage a team like this, dedicated to their game, dedicated to their game. So committed.
“Even though I have been watching them for many years, they are still as hungry as ever.
“As I have often said, the greatest attribute they possess is the common sense to recognize that their career is a small window of opportunity. They have a chance to win as much as possible.”
There is no club in the country that has as many medal-hungry players as Sloatneil. With four county footballers since claiming their first Ulster title in Christopher McCaig, Brendan Rodgers, Shane McGuigan and Paul McNeill, they have raised all sorts of bars on what the club can achieve.
Likewise, it has dawned on many that when they take to the field in Owenbeg to face Kevin Lynch this Sunday, they will be going for ten Derry hurling championships in a row.
Even if they can reach the magical double figures, Sloatneil will still find themselves far from the impressive figures offered by some clubs.
However, on closer inspection, this reveals the defense of counties such as Cavan (Mullahoran with 21 consecutive titles since 1990), Donegal (16 with Burt) and Fermanagh (Lisbello and their 14 consecutive titles) that exist in the bottom half. Access to County Hurling.
Don’t expect any confusion in the camp though.
“I’m telling you now,” warns McShane, “and you’re going to think I’m just saying this, but it’s true. The phrase ‘ten in a row’ is mentioned in our changing rooms or in our groups or in our meetings or its Nothing like that has been done. It has never been mentioned.
“And it’s a simple reason. We’ve never talked about nine in a row, or eight in a row or any of that. We just look at each championship and take it on its own merits. We know that if we have any If we want to win the dairy championship this year, we’re going to have to work hard to do that. And if we do that, we’ll be able to move up to the next level and that’s where we want to go.”
For McShane, it’s been a busy year, and one that has brought great highs, however, incomparable to the crushing tragedy that followed.
In his second year managing Tyrone, they captured the Nicky Rickard Cup. Within weeks, however, the panel was in despair when star player Damian Casey died while attending a wedding abroad.
“It was a real awakening for me to understand what’s important in life. Sometimes we can get so caught up in training, managing and playing and trying to be successful and trying to win. Sometimes winning can be paramount. After all, ” That explains.
“But after Damian died, you realize there are more important things in life and that’s one thing I took from it.
“That said, I look at hurling, coaching and managing to get him back. I am still struggling to get my head around the fact that he is no longer with us. I’m just thinking about such wonderful fellas to be around. A young man with a whole life in front of him, had so much to look forward to and was robbed of him.”