BALLINDERRY Shamrocks became the first club for a decade to secure back-to back Derry Senior Football titles against Slaughtneil on Sunday. It was hard-hitting, tightly contested Championship fare before a crowd of over 7,000 but the word on most lips as they left the ground was ‘easy.’ ‘Big Easy!’
Michael Wilson was in Celtic Park
Photographs: Lorcan Doherty
Enda Muldoon’s sublime 16th minute pass which put Collie Devlin in for the game’s decisive goal should not have been a surprise to anyone. After all, it was a carbon copy of the inch perfect pass which allowed Raymond Wilkinson to decide an equally tight semi-final against Banagher. That day, like Sunday, Muldoon’s delivery could not have been more precise if it had DHL stamped all over it!
Again Muldoon’s contribution was the decisive one. His was a pass that deserved the superb finish Devlin provided, the forward feigning one way before turning inside and side-footing, left-footed, past a helpless Anton McMullan.
The result was harsh on Slaughtneil who recovered from a slow start and should have felt aggrieved to trial by four points at 1-06 to 0-05 at half-time. It was particularly harsh on Patsy Bradley who almost single handedly wrestled the midfield sector from a Ballinderry quartet of Muldoon, James Conway, Martin Harney and Ryan Bell in the second half. Bradley did enough to give his side victory but when they needed it most, composure deserted Damien Barton’s men and Ballinderry don’t offer second chances.
Slaughtneil had the champions on the ropes but their forwards lacked that knock-out blow. Bringing the game back to a point after finding themselves behind by more than double scores (1-08 to 0-05) three minutes into the second half tells you they were capable. Raymond Wilson’s needless 43rd minute dismissal on a second booking should have provided the window of opportunity they craved but nerves grabbed too often when shooting for scores they would knock over with ease on any other day.
Except County Final day is not like any other day and Ballinderry are past masters. Even with 14 men and Patsy Bradley lording it at midfield, they still had the forward line to punish Slaughtneil. All six forwards scored from play and between them they contributed 1-09. When the ammunition for a forward line of that calibre is being provided by Muldoon you’re asking for trouble, especially when you afford him the space Slaughtneil did in the first 30 minutes.
Another year and another title for the Shamrocks who will now turn their attention to Errigal Ciaran, ironically managed by former Ballinderry star Ronan McGuckin who is understood to be unwilling to lead the Tyrone champions against his native club. That is the next challenge for Martin McKinless who admitted he was worried about the Slaughtneil fight back on Sunday.
“It was well deserved, first half anyway,” explained the Ballinderry manager.
“The second half maybe didn’t go the way we wanted it to go and we probably didn’t get the scores we wanted. Slaughtneil came at us and the referee made a couple of decisions on frees that you wouldn’t have thought were frees, so they got their scores and kept coming at us but we dug deep as we usually do. When the chips were down we stood up and got the scores we needed.
“We were worried at one stage. We weren’t winning the battle around the middle of the field. Slaughtneil were getting the breaking ball, our half-backs had been sucked in a bit but we got them sorted and started winning a ball or two. The thing about it is when we did win the ball we always had something to hit it to and it was paying dividends.”
The Ballinderry manager said back-to-back titles had been the target all season and claimed the victory proved wrong those who said the team was on the decline.
“Well you can’t beat experience, can you, and old legs, if they are used properly can be every bit as good as young ones. Enda Muldoon has been a phenomenon at Ballinderry all through the years and he set an example again.
“We set out at the start of the year to win the title again. We wanted back-to-back titles but that puts a lot of added pressure on. In the games we have played before this final we maybe hadn’t played as fluid football as we can and we hadn’t always got the scores we can, we were just digging out results and today we dug out another result. We got the goal early on and a few scores on the board. We got the result we wanted and it is very sweet, I can tell you.”
Ballinderry Shamrocks - Michael Conlan; Conor Wilkinson, Kevin McGuckin, Ryan Scott; Raymond Wilson, Conor Nevin, Gareth McKinless; Enda Muldoon, James Conway (0-1); Aaron Devlin (0-2), Raymond Wilkinson (0-1), Conleith Gilligan (0-3, 2f); Collie Devlin (1-0), Ryan Bell (0-2), Martin Harney (0-1). Subs. Dermot McGuckin for G McKinless, 53 mins; Kevin Moss McGuckin for C Devlin, 61 mins.
Emmet’s, Slaughtneil - Anton McMullan; Conan Cassidy, Chrissy McKaigue, Francis McEldowney; Karl McKaigue, Barry McGuigan, Danny McMullan (0-1); Patsy Bradley, Padraig McGuigan; Fergal McEldowney, Christopher Bradley (0-4, 3f); Padrig Kelly (0-2); Jim Kelly (0-3, 2f), Michéal Kelly, Sé McGuigan. Subs. Shane Kelly for P McGuigan, 35 mins; Enda McKaigue for S McGuigan, 40 mins; Paul Bradley for M Kelly, 48 mins; Gerrald Bradley for D McMullan, 58 mins.
Referee - Mr. Sean Hamill (Ballerin)