Veteran Enda helps Ballinderry claim back-to-back success
Derry SFC final
Slaughtneil 0-10 Ballinderry 1-10: Ballinderry repeated their achievement of a decade ago as they clinched back-to-back Derry senior titles with a hard-earned win over Slaughtneil.
The Shamrocks were the last team in the county to retain the John McLaughlin Cup back in 2001 and 2002, when they famously won the All-Ireland club title in between.
They had made consecutive titles their aim for this season from day one and they achieved it thanks mostly to Collie Devlin’s 16th minute goal.
The razor-sharp forward was the coolest man in Celtic Park as he turned inside Francis McEldowney and side-footed home the only goal of the contest.
A goal was always going to be crucial in such a tight encounter and Slaughtneil, try as they might, never threatened to get back into it.
But such has been Ballinderry’s way this summer. Often praised for their attacking brilliance over the past decade and more, this championship has been a tale of terrific defence.
They conceded just one goal on their way to the title, and on Sunday, Mickey Conlan never had a save to make.
Even from early on, it looked that it was going right to the wire. Two Padrig Kelly points sandwiched scores from Ryan Bell and Aaron Devlin, while James Conway and Jim Kelly exchanged scores to leave it 0-3 apiece midway through the first half.
But Enda Muldoon, at 35, produced another man-of-the-match performance, and it was his piece of magic that set up the goal for Devlin (pictured with Aaron Devlin).
The veteran midfielder dropped a 50-yard pass over the top and right into Devlin’s hands, just as he had done for Raymond Wilkinson’s goal in the semi-final. Devlin made the most of the chance, helping the Shamrocks into a 1-6 to 0-5 lead at the interval.
Ballinderry extended their lead further with scores from Martin Harney and Ryan Bell on the restart, but the Emmet’s mounted their comeback from there.
They were helped by the dismissal of Raymond Wilson for two bookings in the space of a couple of minutes. Christopher Bradley and Jim Kelly nailed five scores on the bounce between them to reduce Ballinderry’s lead to just a single point at 1-7 to 0-9.
But they weren’t able to draw themselves level, with Kelly guilty of kicking a free wide from 30 yards, while Conleith Gilligan held his nerve at the other end.
And while Ballinderry had made their aim back-to-back titles, they have been hurt too by so many near misses in Ulster.
Crossmaglen have denied them on several occasions but before they get near the reigning All-Ireland champions, they’ll have to come through one of their own men. Ronan McGuckin, Ballinderry born and bred, will be on the line with the Errigal Ciaran side Ballinderry now face in 13 days’ time.
Ballinderry: M Conlan; C Wilkinson, Kevin McGuckin, R Scott; R Wilson, C Nevin, G McKinless; E Muldoon, J Conway (0-1); A Devlin (0-2), R Wilkinson (0-1), C Gilligan (0-3, 0-2f); C Devlin (1-0), R Bell (0-2), M Harney (0-1). Subs: D McGuckin for McKinless (49), D Conway for Harney (46), Kevin McGuckin for C Devlin (60).
Slaughtneil: A McMullan; C Cassidy, C McKaigue, Francis McEldowney; K McKaigue, B McGuigan, D McMullan (0-1); Patsy Bradley, P McGuigan; Fergal McEldowney, C Bradley (0-4, 0-3f), P Kelly (0-2); J Kelly (0-3, 0-2f), M Kelly, S McGuigan. Subs: S Kelly for P McGuigan (33), E McKaigue for S McGuigan (40), Paul Bradley for M Kelly (52), G Bradley for Cassidy (58).
Referee: S Hamill (Ballerin).