M&L Contracts Derry Senior Football Championship Semi-Final (Owenbeg, Sunday, 3.45pm)
Slaughtneil v Ballinderry
This game will surely attract the biggest championship crowd of the season to Owenbeg as holders Slaughtneil take on the side they defeated with a late Gerald Bradley goal in the 2014 decider.
Ballinderry were champions in 2011, 2012 and 2013, Slaughtneil retaining the John McLaughlin Cup last year with a narrow final win over Coleraine.
For much of their opening game with Bellaghy, the Shamrock’s looked as if they might bow out against the Tones but they eventually pulled through 1-12 to 0-12 to set up a last eight encounter with Banagher.
Banagher spurned two early gaol chances and paid the price, five superb points from Ryan Bell and outstanding displays from Conleith Gilligan and Kevin McGuckin driving them to a 1-14 to 1-7 victory.
At one stage Slaughtneil looked to be on the verge of surrendering their title against Lavey, six points adrift at half time, but they took control from an early stage in the second period and pushed on for victory and then a very comfortable quarter final win over Newbridge.
For certain these two teams have experience and class players in abundance and neither will be short on desire or motivation.
Martin McKinless is back at the helm for Ballinderry and he certainly has the championship pedigree and know how when it comes to winning titles. Another win would give him six successes in six finals!
For their part, the John Joe Kearney/Mickey Moran combination has proved hugely successful for Slaughtneil and the enticing lure of a possible ‘three in a row’ will intensify their desire for victory over their long-standing rivals.
Kevin McGuckin lorded midfield against Banagher but now he will come up against a player of equal experience and class in Patsy Bradley.
Defensively Slaughtneil will look to Chrissy McKaigue, Brendan Rogers and Karl McKaigue to take on the scoring threat of Ryan Bell, Raymond Wilkinson, Daniel McKinless and Conleith Gilligan.
Christopher Bradley, Sé McGuigan, Cormac O’Doherty, Shane McGuigan will pose a huge threat to the Ballinderry defence, back-boned by Gareth McKinless, Ryan Scott, Michael McIver and Declan Bell.
No matter what way you look at this game it has ‘thriller’ written all over it, with both sides putting forward strong cases for being cast in the role of favourite to reach the decider.
Indeed there could well be another chapter to be written before the final pairing is known!