O'Neill's Derry Senior Football Championship Quarter-final
Slaughtneil 1-14, Ballinderry 0-11
Slaughtneil moved ominously into the Derry Senior Football Championship semi-finals after victory in a headline quarter-final that never quite lived up to it pre-match billing.
The Emmet's were winners from a long way out with Ballinderry's chances badly hit by the loss of link man Gareth McKinless to a serious looking first half knee injury. McKinless tangled with Chrissy McKaigue only 11 minutes in as the pair raced toward the Slaughtneil posts. Referee Damien Harkin saw nothing wrong in the clash but McKinless appeared to fall awkwardly and was immediately in trouble, eventually being helped off the pitch after bravely trying to run it off.
Shorn of a player who carries much of their attacking threat, the Shamrocks rallied to lead by two as the clock ticked into four first half minutes of injury time but by the time the short whistle sounded they were chasing a losing cause.
Ballinderry's troubles stemmed from a misfiring kick-out with Slaughtneil winning 17 out of the 19 first half kick-outs. That statistic barley improved after the break and you cannot hand a side like Slaughtneil that amount of possession and hope to prosper.
The key passage period was that first half stoppage time. The McKinless injury necessitated the longer than usual additional time and Slaughtneil took full advantage with a four point turn around that gave them a second half platform that became comfortable after Christopher 'Sammy' Bradley's superb 40th minute goal.
In this type of form, the Emmet's will be installed as short odds favourites to reclaim the John McLaughlin Cup and had a level of control by the end that meant the final quarter was a keep ball session with neither team scoring in the final 10 minutes.
The weather failed to deter the sizeable crowd at Watty Graham Park with Ryan Bell putting Ballinderry in front with a free inside the opening minute but it was cancelled out seconds later by Shane McGuigan from another placed ball.
The free contest continued with 'Sammy' Bradley and Bell then exchanging scores before Shane McGuigan edged the Emmet's in front with the game's fifth free on nine minutes.
The game's first point from play did not arrive until the 16th minute courtesy of Daniel McKinless' lovely score and by that stage Conor O'Neill had already replaced the unfortunate Gareth McKinless.
Ballinderry were giving as good in play but that attacking potential was constantly being blunted by their kick-out problems with a lack of options forcing Ben McKinless to kick long and it was Slaughtneil who won the breaks.
In the face of that kick-out dominance, it says a lot that Ballinderry still managed to forge a 0-7 to 0-5 lead. Another Bell free edged them in front, Conor Nevin then advancing to score after Bell's beautiful pass threatened to completely open up the Emmet's back line.
Brian Cassidy and Shane McGuigan (free) levelled matters but Daniel McKinless and Bell (free) had the Shamrocks looking like they would go into half-time with a surprise two point lead with a chance to reset.
It didn't happen. Slaughtneil went through the gears in a frightening four minute spell that seemed to take the wind from Ballinderry sails.
'Sammy' Bradley's huge point was the signal for the late first half charge before Se McGuigan sent 'Sammy' through with a goal on. The playmaker blazed his shot over the bar but there was barely time for him to reflect on that before Shane McGuigan (free) and Se McGuigan had them walking off two points to the good at 0-9 to 0-7.
That blitz was probably worth more than just the four points to Slaughtneil. It shell shocked Ballinderry who emerged after half-time with what appeared a more cautious approach but sitting deeper, and crucially missing McKinless' running power, their front men look badly isolated after the break, especially in the face of a Brendan Rogers masterclass at full back.
Ballinderry rang the changes but they were struggling to get a foothold and their chances all but disappeared with the game only goal on 40 minutes.
Shane McGuigan (free) and Raymond Wilkinson had already swapped points before Rogers' umpteenth turnover set Slaughtneil off and running. The ball was moved forward down the right, Cormac O'Doherty doing well to win ball before recycling it back across the pitch to the left from where Shane McGuigan's perfect pass sent 'Sammy' scampering away. Possibly with that first half chance still fresh in his mind, Bradley this time elected for precision over power, producing a superb low finish for a 1-10 to 0-8 lead Slaughtneil never looked like losing.
Bradley then showed his passing power by combining with Cormac O'Doherty for two more audacious points from the latter that merely underlined Slaughtneil's superiority and while Shamrock's hit points from substitute Conor O'Neill and Caolan Mallaghan, they never looked like bridging the gap.
Rogers capped a remarkable individual display by breaking forward to fist a lovely point with the only surprise left in the game the fact that Kevin McGuckin's 49th minute score proved the final of the game.
Both Wilkinson and Feeney saw red for second bookable offences but the anticipated fireworks never materialised. Instead it was an Emmet's performance of foreboding efficiency that will have the other three semi-finalists feeling anxious. Slaughtneil are coming again.
Slaughtneil scorers: Christopher Bradley (1-3, 1f), Shane McGuigan (0-6, 6f), Brian Cassidy (0-1), Se McGuigan (0-1), Cormac O'Doherty (0-2), Brendan Rogers (0-1)
Ballinderry scorers: Ryan Bell (0-4, 4f), Daniel McKinless (0-2), Conor Nevin (0-1), Raymond Wilkinson (0-1), Conor O'Neil (0-1), Caolan Mallaghan (0-1), Kevin McGuckin (0-1)
Slaughtneil: Sean Cassidy; Karl McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Keelan Feeney; Francis McEldowney, Christopher McKaigue, Conor McAlister; Padraig Cassidy, Paudi McGuigan; Shane McGuigan, Christopher Bradley, Meehawl McGrath; Brian Cassidy, Se McGuigan, Cormac O'Doherty.
(Subs) Ronan Bradley for C O'Doherty, 49mins; Jerome McGuigan for Se McGuigan, 55mins; Conor Cassidy for P McGuigan, 59mins
Ballinderry: Ben McKinless; Ryan Scott, Declan Bateson, Eamon Wilson; Kevin McGuckin, Conor Nevin, Ryan O'neill; Kevin McGuckin, Oisin Duffin; Darren Mullan, Gareth McKinless, Darren Lawn; Daniel McKinless, Ryan bell, Raymond Wilkinson.
(Subs) Conor O'Neill for G mcKinless (inj), 16mins; Raymond Wilson for D Lawn, 35mins; Ciaran Hagan for O Duffin, 36mins; Caolan Mallaghan for K McGuckin, 43mins; Eoin Devlin for E Wilson, 49mins;
Referee: Damien Harkin (Slaughtmanus)