Banagher v Ballinderry (Owenbeg, Friday, 8pm)
It’s this season’s Senior Championship surprise package against the aristocracy of modern Oak Leaf club football at Owenbeg tonight (8.00pm throw-in) as Banagher and Ballinderry go head to head for a place in the last four.
Few expected St. Mary’s to be lining out in the quarter-finals, particularly after they were paired against Kilrea in the last round but Banagher not only upset the odds in that game, they did it in some style, winning 3-18 to 2-14.
Second half goals from Ryan McGillian, Peter Hagan and Steafan McCloskey settled the issue for Banagher but it was the manner of the result that gives rise for optimism. Bangher were the more composed and clinical side from the start and while there was little between the sides in the opening half, when the questions were asked after the break, Banagher were not found wanting.
Mark Lynch played very deep and picked out Eunan Murphy and Shane Farren with pin point passes and this duo scored seven points between them all from play. Banagher hit an amazing 3-17 of their 3-18 from open play but they are unlikely to get as much space against the Shamrocks!
At a time when players in their late 20s and early 30s are hanging up their boots, some Ballinderry players in the upper half of the 30s are bouncing around like spring lambs. They actually finished the stronger team against Bellaghy.
Banagher had eight of their team playing in Sunday’s hurling final against Slaughtneil and it will be interesting to see if that disappointment has any effect or if the rest works in Ballinderry’s favour.
Paddy Downey had his side well set up for the victory over Kilrea while Ballinderry took some time to get into their stride against Bellaghy but once they did, things began to click with Conleth Gilligan and Ryan Bell pulling the strings. Any team that can bring on substitutes like Colin Devin and James Bateson must be a serious threat.
No doubt this will be another very tactical game. Banagher will hope to put up the shutters against the very dangerous Ballinderry attack. They will be mindful that a moderate Kilrea forward line hit them for 2-14 and they cannot allow that scope to players like Gilligan, Raymond Wilkinson and Daniel McKinless.
Midfield could be a very interesting area where Enda Muldoon played a key role against Bellaghy. He may not have the pace of yore but in terms of catching, kick passing and intelligent play he is still the master.
Ballinderry look to have the stronger panel and while they may lack a bit of pace in some areas they will still be justifiable favourites to reach the semi-final.