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Ballinderry seize the day

By Declan Bogue

Ballinderry 1-13 Glenswilly 2-6: Nobody was saying outright that this game was a battle between Michael Murphy and Ballinderry, but that's the way it turned out here in Healy Park in a game that exploded at the start and kept a brisk pace throughout.

That's not to take away from the efforts of other Glenswilly players, but for long periods of this game Murphy was simply untouchable, until Ballinderry's Gareth McKinless grew into his marking task and the Shamrocks' overall talent distributed throughout their line-up made this game safe for them.

They will now go on to play London champions Kingdom Kerry Gaels in a fortnight's time in the All-Ireland quarter-final, but for now they will toast their first provincial title since 2001.

Naturally, and it has been documented at length, but the last time they managed such a feat was in 2001 and they never stopped until they had landed an All-Ireland club title with victory over Nemo Rangers in Semple Stadium.

The current side are littered with veterans of that tour of duty, James and Darren Conway, Conleith Gilligan, the two Kevin McGuckins, Colin Devlin and Enda Muldoon all got game-time here, and each of them made telling contributions.

To take you back to the start, a mere 26 seconds was on the clock when the first blow was struck. Colin Kelly fisted a pass to Michael Murphy who looked stranded in the corner.

On receipt of the pass he breezed past Dermot McGuckin's challenge before cutting in on his left foot.

Somewhat surprisingly his shot looped over the head of goalkeeper Mickey Conlan, into the Ballinderry net.

Playing with two sweepers in the first half, Glenswilly frustrated Ballinderry in the first quarter, whose first two points needed serious distance to clear the bar from Devlin and James Conway.

Dermot McGuckin's jink was enough to penetrate the blanket of Donegal men, operating with a four-man half-back line and Caolan Kelly as sweeper to hit their third point and they drew level when Glenswilly's tackling began to unravel, leaving Devlin and Gilligan with simple frees to tap over.

As was expected, Michael McIver pushed up and joined the forward ranks and buzzed about with intent.

A James Conway ball was superbly fielded by Ryan Bell who had his shot blocked down, but it squirted to McIver who punched to the net.

Defenders Brian McDaid and John McFadden both then had nibbles out of McIver and were promptly booked by referee Paudie Hughes.

Glenswilly's resistance came in the form of Murphy, who split the Shamrocks defence to send the roving Kelly in for a point, but otherwise they began to tire, a Ciaran Bonner shot off the upright just before half-time characterising this.

From the second half throw-in, Murphy caught the ball, evaded a couple of challenges and set up Colin Kelly for a point, and a couple of minutes later he unselfishly fisted across the face of goal for Caolan Kelly to nab a goal. Murphy landed another astonishing point from out on the wing in the next play, being responsible for 1-2 in four minutes of football.

The effort expended had an undoubted effect.

Glenswilly only scored two points in the last 25 minutes, with Gareth McKinless warming to man-marking Murphy and sticking limpet-like to him until the end.

Gilligan brought them level again in a scrappy foray with Devlin edging Ballinderry ahead once more.

Gary McFadden's difficult free midway through the second half would have evened things up again for Glenswilly, but it tailed wide.

Getting ready for the final ascent, Ballinderry introduced the pacy ball carrier Aaron Devlin along with the steadying influence of Enda Muldoon.

Glenswilly still defended with vigour, but the shooting skills of the Shamrocks took centre-stage.

Daniel McKinless swooped one over from wide right, late substitute Darren Conway also landed a wonderful effort after Kevin McGuckin laid it off.

The final score belonged to Conleith Gilligan who came out to take a 45 metre free and put it directly over the black spot.

By that stage there were four points of a margin in the game, but Ballinderry appeared to be entirely masters of their own destiny.

A long tiring season for Michael Murphy ended in him being marginalised for the last quarter, save for a brilliant individual point, their last, with 10 minutes remaining.

The greater spread of talent was the undoubted reason for Ballinderry's triumph and given how Dr Crokes almost slipped up in Munster, the playing field is levelling out.

Should Ballinderry avoid the awaiting banana skin in London, they would meet the Leinster winners of Portlaoise and St Vincent's.

Mouth-watering indeed.

Ballinderry: M Conlan; R Scott, C Nevin (Capt), M McIver 1-0; R Wilson, G McKinless, D Lawn; K McGuckin, J Conway 0-2; D McKinless 0-1, K Moss McGuckin, D McGuckin 0-2; C Devlin 0-3, 1f, R Bell, C Gilligan 0-3, 2f. Subs: E Muldoon for K M McGuckin (33m), A Devlin 0-1 for D Lawn (40m), D Conway 0-1 for McIver (50m) R Wilkinson for Devlin (59m)

Yellow cards: Bell (10m), J Conway [40m]

Glenswilly: P O'Donnell; B McDaid, J McFadden, Caolan Kelly 1-1; E Ward, R Crawford, JP McDaid (Capt); N Gallagher, C Bonner; Colin Kelly 0-1, J Gibbons, M Murphy 1-3, 1x'45'; K McFadden, G McFadden, D McGinley 0-1. Subs: A McDevitt for J McFadden (half-time), B Farrelly for K McFadden (50m), B Molloy for JP McDaid (52m), R Diver for Crawford, L Kelly for Gibbons (59m)

Yellow cards: Murphy (16m), B McDaid, J McFadden (27m), K McFadden (28m), Colin Kelly (45m)

Referee: Paudie Hughes (Armagh)

Attendance: 6,809.

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