McKinless hints at Shamrocks exit after All-Ireland misery
Ballinderry 1-13 St Vincent's 2-14: Martin McKinless has been Ballinderry manager for five campaigns and has yet to lose a game in the Derry Championship, but he might be set to step down after Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final loss to Dublin's St Vincent's.
The domestic leagues in Derry commence on April 15, but that seems a long way away for McKinless, who said after the defeat: "I maybe could be on the road out, I don't know, I will see what happens, see the lads and talk to them.
"I have served my time in there, have been in there six years or maybe more, we will see what happens."
If he does go, it might precede the retirement of a special group of players, among them Conleith Gilligan, Enda Muldoon, Mickey Conlan and the two Kevin McGuckins.
They wanted to repeat the heroics of the 2002 All-Ireland winning-campaign, but it wasn't to be as a scoring contribution of 1-9 from the almost-flawless Tomás 'Mossy' Quinn gave the Marino club another opportunity to march en masse and on foot to Croke Park to play Castlebar Mitchell's on St Patrick's Day.
The unavailability of Ger Brennan – his clean-up procedure on his hip after the Leinster final still affecting him – did not adversely affect Vincent's as they sprang out of the traps to grab goals in the seventh and 11th minutes.
The first came after Michael Concarr's impressive run that took him into the heart of the Ballinderry defence, before he offloaded and Quinn's snapshot beat Conlan to the net. Quinn then turned provider, a measured diagonal delivery deceiving and wrong-footing full-back Kevin McGuckin, whose man Ciaran Dorney lashed to the net.
Ballinderry were happy to leave McGuckin on Dorney and Gareth McKinless on Quinn at the back, with Tiernan Diamond dragging Ryan Scott out the field, leaving too much room inside.
"Teams generally drop men back or there is a little bit of protection but they are a good team and they obviously backed themselves," said Quinn afterwards.
An admirable comeback was generated by an increased appetite for breakball in the second quarter, and a mesmerising energetic contribution from Collie Devlin, who hit four points from play to leave the minimum margin in it at half-time.
While the stickiness of the Shamrocks comeback in the first half was impressive, the sheer forcefulness of the Vincent's effort in the second meant they would not be denied.
From Mickey Conlan's 16 kickouts, Ballinderry only won possession three times. Notably, two of these came directly after Daniel McKinless had wriggled himself a bit of room to squeeze in a shot to the net to leave two points the margin with 12 minutes to go.
Mickey Conlan tried to come out and meet Quinn to a loose ball and the ball ended up over the bar from a free when it could have been disaster. Diarmuid Connolly sparked into action with two early scores from play.
A break ball won by James Conway and transferred by Michael McIver to the dangerous Ryan Bell was converted into a point, but the Shamrocks scores were laboured, while Quinn was able to pick off frees coughed up by some indisciplined Ballinderry tackling.
Aaron Devlin chipped in with two from play but Vincent's always had the class to answer them. The final score was a case in point, Connolly picking up the break ball after Michael Savage's kickout from Devlin's point, sailing through the centre of defence and hanging a shot up onto the breeze for it to carry over.
During the week, McKinless had expressed fears about the break that Ballinderry had indulged themselves after winning Ulster and he revisited it afterwards, saying: "We were going well, we believed we could win it. We had watched them but like, obviously the long turnaround, they improved more in it than we did.
"To be fair, we took a couple of weeks break before going back at it and maybe we were too slack.
"We were second to the ball in a lot of positions and they were maybe that wee bit more stronger on the ball when they won it."
Football is the common language around the Loughshore and that factor will be debated and examined. Same as it ever was.
BALLINDERRY: M Conlan; R Scott, K McGuckin, G McKinless; D Lawn, C Nevin (Capt), R Wilson 0-1; J Conway 0-1, E Muldoon; M McIver, C Devlin 0-5, 1f, D McGuckin; D McKinless 1-0, R Bell 0-2, C Gilligan 0-2, 1f. Subs: A Devlin 0-2 for Scott (16m), M Harney for McIver (42m), D Conway for Lawn (46m)
Yellow cards: Conway 36m, Nevin 42m, G McKinless 49m
ST VINCENT'S: M Savage; K Bonnie, J Curley, H Gill (Capt); C Diamond, B Egan, M Concarr; D Murphy, E Fennell; G Burke 0-1, T Diamond, S Carthy 0-1; D Connolly 0-3, C Dorney 1-1, T Quinn 1-9, 5f, 1x'45'
Subs: K Golden for Diamond (58m), N Mullins for Carthy (61m), A Baxter for Dorney (63m)
Yellow cards: Egan 40m, Connolly 49m
Referee: Martin Duffy (Sligo)