Ballinderry last won the Derry senior football championship title two years ago and it is a measure of just how high the level of expectation within the club is now that a season without the title is regarded as a mini-famine.
“We pride ourselves on our consistency and we have been there or thereabouts for several years now. We want the title back and our players are very fired up to reclaim it,” says Ballinderry spokesman Camillus Quinn.
Ballinderry, who won the All Ireland Club title in 2002 when former Donegal boss Brian McIver was in charge, will square up to Slaughtneil in Sunday’s county final at Celtic Park (3.30) conscious that their opponents are yearning to reign supreme again having landed the crown four years ago.
“Slaughtneil are currently being coached by John Rafferty and any side coached by John will always be up for battle and bring great hunger to the table,” maintains Quinn.
Rafferty, the former Armagh player who was previously in charge of St Galls, has certainly helped to bring Slaughtneil back to the boil again.
But just how they will cope with a Ballinderry side that boasts seven Derry county players remains to be seen
Skipper Enda Muldoon leads this experienced platoon which also includes Conleith Gilligan, Kevin McGuckin, Niall McCusker, Collie Devlin, Michael McIver, and Raymond Wilkinson.
Muldoon has spent part of this year recovering from injury but is now “flying”, according to club officials.
That will certainly be a bonus for Ballinderry who have come to rely heavily on their talisman. He has been a fixture in the Derry county side for a decade having initially blossomed at Minor level.
Slaughtneil, boosted by the experienced McEldowney brothers Francis and Fergal along with strongman midfielder Patsy Bradley, have shown themselves to be a purposeful, resilient side high on skill and well able to cope with physical challenges.
Up front Jim Kelly, who has gained experience in the Derry side without quite becoming an established figure, is an elusive scoring ace while Christopher McHugh was drafted into the Derry squad during the summer.
John Rafferty, who gave magnificent service to Armagh as a player and has done much to enhance coaching standards generally, believes that Slaughtneil can rise to the occasion but he acknowledges
that Ballinderry’s experience and tradition will be plus-factors.
“They are a fine team but we have confidence in our own ability. Slaughtneil have shown themselves in the recent past to be a very capable side and I’ve no doubt that further proof of this will be provided on Sunday ,” adds Quinn.
Ballinderry’s overall strength and physical power should take them through to another title but they won’t find the going easy - not with John Rafferty in the vicinity.