Just a couple of weeks after he lifted the John McLaughlin Cup at Celtic Park as captain of Ballinderry, Ryan Scott’s season has been cruelly cut short on the even of this weekend’s Ulster Club Championship meeting with Errigal Ciaran.
Scott picked up a serious knee injury in training and it is feared that he has sustained a cruciate ligament injury for the second time in his career, this time in the other knee. He will definitely miss the Errigal Ciaran game but a full assessment of the extent of the injury will be carried out when the swelling on the knee had gone down.
On the plus side, former Derry star Michael McIver, son of Derry manager Brian McIver, has returned to full fitness after long term injury and helped Ballinderry win the Reserve championship last week. He will be among the players that Martin McKinless will have at his disposal from a strong bench to replace Scott.
The same venue but different Tyrone opposition for Ballinderry who will be hoping for a similar result. Last year in the first round of the Ulster club championship, Ballinderry defeated the then Tyrone champions, Dromore, in a classic. This time it is the new Tyrone champions, Errigal Ciaran. Errigal defeated Dromore in the Tyrone final by five points under the guidance of former Ballinderry centre half, Ronan McGuckin.
Last year the Dromore team was managed by former Ballinderry player Paul McIver and this time Ronan McGuckin has excused himself from sideline duty for this game as he was unhappy at the prospect of plotting the downfall of a club for which he won five Derry Senior, one Ulster and one All Ireland medal with. To put another twist on the tale, one of the Ballinderry backroom team is a former Errigal Ciaran player Joe Canavan.
The game has attracted huge interest across the province and is sure to attract a big crowd at the central venue of Omagh. Errigal have already had a game in the Ulster championship, the preliminary round clash against Mullahoran of Cavan which was a game that had its fair share of controversy. Errigal won by 4-15 to 1-07 with referee Padraig Hughes struggling to keep a lid on matters. He red carded Mullahoran player Paul Brady and dished out four yellow cards four to each team.
In that game Peter Harte at centre half was the key man for the Tyrone men. He scored one of the goals, as did Damien McDermott, Tomas Canavan and Brendan Horisk but they showed their versatility with seven different scorers.
Errigal were somewhat surprise winners in Tyrone with a young team driven on by centre half Peter Harte whose runs forward will cause any team problems. They also have two players, Davy Harte and Cairn McGinley, who have won All Ireland medals with Tyrone.
Ballinderry would have a well balanced team of youth and experience, they may not have been firing on all cylinders when winning the Derry title but they have been building towards an Ulster title.
Given that Derry is the most competitive club championship in Ulster with six different winners in the last ten years it was quite an achievement for the Shamrocks to win back-to-back titles.
They may have the edge in midfield with their twin towers of Enda Muldoon and James Conway against the McGinley brothers Cormac and team captain Enda. These players may lack the height of the Ballinderry pair but they will have the edge in pace.
The Ballinderry attack is full of talent but they have not yet had a day when all six were in top form. It was two or three of them who would step up to the mark in each game and if the day comes when all six hit a top note it will take a superb defence to hold them.
Defensively Martin McKinless has assembled a very tight back six in front of outstanding goalie Mickey Conlon. They seldom give away goals with the experienced Kevin McGuckin pivotal but the loss of Ryan Scott is a huge blow. A relatively young half-back line has pace with Conor Nevin a reliable and solid centre half.
It has been the ability of Enda Muldoon to send long range passes into his forwards that has brought they through a few sticky situations against Banagher and Slaughtneil. His team could be under severe pressure but Muldoon with one 50 yard pass can change the course of a game.
Both teams play in similar blue and white colours so there may be unfamiliar looking jerseys on show but a lot of quality players inside them. The one player that the Ballinderry full back line must keep tabs on is the small but lightning fast Damien McDermott who scored 1-02 against Mullahoran at Breffini Park.
It has all the makings of a thriller with Ballinderry fancied to reach the semi final.