Ballinderry 3-10, Dungiven 0-11
In front of another big crowd at Owenbeg, the clinical finishing of Ballinderry proved too much for a wasteful Dungiven team that accumulated far too many wides to be in contention at the end.
Ballinderry were always in the lead after scoring from their first three chances but had Dungiven been a bit more accurate in their finishing, they could have made it difficult for the Shamrock’s at the end.
Remarkably the three Ballinderry goals, two by Conleth Gilligan and one by Enda Muldoon, were all punched to the net. The winners, despite worries about their defence, got many of their scores from moves coming out of that area and all three goals were based on slick inter passing.
Ballinderry also had the edge in pace and were more adept at sweeping up the broken ball. While Conor Murphy was the top man at midfield for Dungiven, he won’t be happy with his finishing after registering only two points from half a dozen chances.
Both back lines were easily breached but it was Ballinderry who had the better finishers. The loss of injured Kevin Johnston was a setback for St. Canice’s and Mark Craig just recovering from injury was not as prominent as usual.
Conor Nevin was at the heart of everything positive for the winners. He was wearing number three but played further out. Raymond Wilkinson had an excellent game coming from deep and taking and setting up scores but there is a worry about Kevin ‘Moss’ McGuckin who limped off in the latter stages of the game.
Conleith Gilligan is as accurate as ever and experienced goalie Mickey Conlon was excellent with his kick-outs, something that Dungiven could not match while Ryan Bell had his moments.
For Dungiven, Cathal McKeever was solid at centre half and while the attack may have been a bit disjointed, James McNicholl and Fergal McGuigan troubled the Shamrock’s back line with their pace.
Dungiven’s best chance of salvaging the game came in the 40th minute when Ballinderry had been leading by 2-10 to 0-10. Ryan McElhinney got in behind the Shamrocks cover but blazed over the bar. In the first half Sean O’Neill somehow wided with only Mickey Conlon to beat.
It was notable however that when Dungiven did threaten, Ballinderry were quick to respond with scores and generally they kept Kevin Madden’s men at arms length.
The losers finished with 14 men after sub Martin McCloskey was red carded late in the game after being only nine minutes in the action.
After a Conor Murphy shot came of an upright in the opening seconds Ballinderry were clinical in their finishing with Gilligan, Bell and Colin Devlin pointing in quick succession while Murphy, Sean O’Neill and James McNicholl posted wides for Dungiven.
Murphy, after a solo run, got Dungiven on the score board but by the 8th minute Cathal McKeever had registered Dungiven’s fifth wide. Fergal McGuigan closed the gap to a point but straight from the kickout Ballinderry swept through for a point. Splendid long range efforts from Bell and James Bateson made the score 0-6 to 0-2 after 14 minutes.
Liam Hinphey with a left foot effort kept Dungiven in contention but their defence was easily prized open as Ballinderry defender Kevin McGuckin registered his team’s seventh score from a sixth player.
Dungiven were winning plenty of possession and their hopes rose when Ryan McElhinney pointed but within seconds the ball was in the back of the Dungiven net as Bell and Wilkinson linked to put Gilligan through for a handsome 1-7 to 0-4 lead.
After Murphy had missed a free, Ryan McElhinney did better with his effort but when the short whistle sounded Ballinderry led by 1-08 to 0-06,
Dungiven made an excellent start to the second half with quick points from McNicholl and McElhinney to leave just a goal in it. Then Ballinderry showed all their championship quality when Wilkinson, under no pressure, embarked on a long solo run and crossed for Enda Muldoon to palm to the net and it was back to chasing the game for Dungiven. Wilkinson then got on the end of a move from a poor Farren kick-out to open up a seven point gap.
Ballinderry centre half Kevin McGuckin was lucky to see yellow instead of black for a pull down on Fergal McGuigan. From the resultant free McElhinney reduced the margin to two goals and both teams shot bad wides before Gilligan gave the Shamrock’s back their seven point advantage.
A splendid point from Murphy followed by a Ryan McElhinney point that should have been a goal put Dungiven back on the fringes of the game, now trailing by 2-10 to 0-11. but that proved to be the losers last score.
Both teams made changes but Dungiven continued to make heavy work of scoring. Five minutes from the end Kevin ‘Moss’ McGuckin limped off but it must have been pleasing for the Shamrock’s supporters see Daniel McKinless enter the action after being out since early in the year with a knee injury.
As the game entered added time, Ballinderry opened up the Dungiven defence again and the alert Gilligan was on hand to punch the ball past keeper Farren to clinch a win. That Gilligan goal was the only score in the last 15 minutes of quite an entertaining game.
Dungiven manager Kevin Madden looked back on the clinical finishing of Ballinderry as opposed to the dreadful shooting from Dungiven.
“That’s the difference,” he conceded, “Ballinderry are completely ruthless. For the neutral, you’d have to stand back and admire how economical they were in that first 15 or 20 minutes.
“As you say, eight chances, seven scores. We had as many chances and didn’t get the scores. Hugely disappointing because the opportunities were there for us. We conceded two bad goals. They took the momentum out of our game at key times. We came back but we just didn’t get close enough. We missed chance after chance after chance. Against Ballinderry, if you don’t take your chances, you’re going to lose the game.
“If you let Ballinderry get beyond four or five, it’s always going to be difficult to peg them back because when they get the ball up the field, they’re going to get the scores. We needed to keep the game as tight as possible. “Ironically, we played a lot better this week than we did against Kilrea but Ballinderry hadn’t found their mojo until tonight. People have written them off but they’re going to go on and get better.
“That was the Ballinderry of two years ago and we paid the price. We’re disappointed that we didn’t take the opportunities and make a real fight of it, because that’s what we prepared for.
Ballinderry scorers: Conleth Gilligan 2-2 (1f), Ryan Bell 0-3 (1f), Enda Muldoon 1-0, Colin Devlin, Darren Lawn, James Bateson, Kevin McGuckin, and Raymond Wilkinson 0-1 each.
Dungiven scorers: Ryan McElhinney 0-4 (2f), Fergal McGuigan 0-3 (2f), Conor Murphy 0-2, Liam Hinphey and James McNicholl 0-1 each.
Ballinderry: Mickey Conlon, Ryan Scott, Conor Nevin, Daniel Bateson, Michael McIver, Kevin McGuckin, Raymond Wilson, Kevin Moss McGuckin, Ryan Bell, Darren Lawn, Colin Devlin, Enda Muldoon, Conleth Gilligan, Raymond Wilkinson, James Bateson. (Subs) James Conway for D Bateson (34) Eamon Wilson for R Scott (45) Dermot McGuckin for E Muldoon (50), Lee Martin for K M McGuckin (54); Daniel McKinless for C Devlin (57)
Dungiven: Kevin Farren, Davie McLaughlin, Gavin McLaughlin, Craig Chewning, Mark Craig, Cathal McKeever, Liam Hinphey, Conor Murphy, Sean O’Kane, James McNicholl, Aaron McCloskey, Kevin Boyle, Sean O’Neill, Fergal McGuigan and Ryan McElhinney. (Subs) Fergal Higgins for S O’Neill (40), Martin Burke for K Boyle (43) Paul Murphy for A McCloskey (45) Martin McCloskey for S O’Kane (50).
Referee: Brendan Quinn (Ballinascreen)