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Ballinderry manager Martin McKinless has final focus after surviving scare

By John Campbell

Ulster club champions Ballinderry may have diced with danger in the modest surroundings of Ruislip, a tiny enclave of north-west London, when they overcame Kingdom Kerry Gaels in the All-Ireland club quarter-final on Sunday.

But when the Derry champions next flex their muscles they will do so against rather more auspicious opponents and in august surroundings.

Newly-crowned Leinster champions St Vincent's, one of Dublin's most fashionable clubs, lie in wait for Martin McKinless' side as they contemplate the scare they endured at the hands of a Gaels outfit that simply did not want to hear of the word defeat on Sunday despite having been reduced to 14 men from an early stage.

If ever Ballinderry required reminding that repeating their 2002 All-Ireland club title triumph would be inordinately difficult given the strides which many other clubs have made in the interim, then this was it.

No wonder McKinless was still emotionally drained last night as he took stock of what was a dramatic weekend for his side while at the same time contemplating a joust with a team which many believe is well-equipped to land the All-Ireland title.

McKinless said: "The Gaels side threw everything at us, but mercifully we had it in us to stay with them and push on in the closing stages.

"It was a battle all the way, but hopefully this will help to steel us for St Vincent's who have a great pedigree."

St Vincent's beat Portlaoise 3-12 to 3-9 in an absorbing Leinster final to take the provincial trophy and boast four current Dublin players – Diarmuid Connolly, Dean Rock, Eamon Fennell and Ger Brennan – in their line-up.

But it is a player who has given outstanding service to Dublin in the past and continues to thrive at club level who could be the greatest threat to Ballinderry's chances of making it to the St Patrick's Day final against Castlebar Mitches or Dr Crokes (Killarney).

Mossie Quinn is still regarded as one of the best free-takers in the country and having, on occasions, won games virtually single-handedly for Dublin, he is maintaining his phenomenal scoring ratio with St Vincent's.

He was on target again in the Leinster final, but even though his consistency shines like a beacon, St Vincent's are by no means a one-man forward division.

It was three relative 'unknowns' – Ciaran Dorney, Ruairi Trainor and Shane Carthy – who scored St Vincent's goals against Portlaoise.

"They are a quality side and they will have big support. We will take a break over Christmas but immediately after we will get down to the serious business of preparing to meet St Vincent's. It should be quite a contest," maintains Martin McKinless – few will quibble with this assessment.

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