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Shamrocks must keep pushing at full throttle, says Devlin

By John Campbell

Collie Devlin, whose two goals against Kingdom Kerry Gaels paved the way for Ballinderry Shamrocks' mouth-watering showdown with Dublin aristocrats St Vincent's in Saturday's All-Ireland club semi-final, believes that this Pairc Esler, Newry showdown will represent the team's "biggest battle of all."

Devlin's consistency and marksmanship in attack is just one of the reasons why Ballinderry now have their sights firmly fixed on the Andy Merrigan Cup, which they last captured in 2002.

But while the Derry champions' potent mix of youth and experience has allowed them to blaze a trail into the last four of club football's most prestigious competition, the wily Devlin sounds a warning.

"Look, we're taking nothing for granted. We would be mugs to do anything like that. We have only to cast our minds back to the Derry championship.

"Every match in that, from we first met Newbridge until we managed to get past Ballinascreen in the final, was a real battle," recalls Devlin.

"Then when we went into the Ulster club championship it was just the same. We had to be at our best to beat Clonoe and Scotstown before we were really pushed to the pin of our collar against Kilcoo."

Three sublime points from Devlin's accurate left boot at the start of the second-half paved the way for a hard-earned victory (1-10 to 0-9) in a throbbing encounter against Kilcoo.

Glenswilly also posed difficult questions before they were eventually subdued in the Ulster final and then it was Devlin's predatory instincts that again came to Ballinderry's rescue in the All-Ireland quarter-final tie against Kingdom Kerry Gaels in London.

His two goals ultimately broke the spirit and the hearts of the hosts in a match which the Oak Leaf representatives had been expected to win easily.

"It was anything but easy. It's worth remembering that Kingdom Kerry Gaels were down to 14 men for much of the second-half. I tell you, we had to pull out all the stops to get over them," states Devlin.

As he ponders Saturday's set-to with a St Vincent's side that is expected to include two members of the Dublin side, Diarmuid Connolly and Ger Brennan, that won the All-Ireland title last year, Devlin believes that the torrid battles in which Ballinderry have engaged to get to this stage will stand them in good stead.

"This will be our biggest battle of all. St Vincent's are obviously preparing meticulously but then so too are we," declares Devlin.

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