Raymond Wilkinson has found it difficult in the recent past to acquire the status of an established member of the Derry football side.
Wilkinson’s relationship with inter-county fare has tended to blow hot and cold in the recent past but now he is hoping to seize what he feels is a golden opportunity to convince new Oak Leaf boss Damian Cassidy that he can provide additional forward power for him.
When Ballinderry defeated Monaghan champions Latton in the quarter-final of the AIB Ulster Club Championship on Sunday week last, Wilkinson turned in a man of the match performance, his scoring touch significantly underpinning his team’s victory.
Now as Ballinderry resume their quest for the provincial crown against Cavan Gaels in next Sunday’s semi-final, Wilkinson is hoping to expand further on the quality finishing he offered against a gritty Latton side that only conceded defeat in the closing stages of a tense encounter.
“It was good to get past Latton but Cavan Gaels have a lot of county players in their side and the fact that they have already beaten St Galls, who reached last year’s Ulster final and have again won the Antrim title, shows just how good a team they are,” maintains Wilkinson.
It was back in 2002 that Ballinderry won the Ulster and All Ireland Club titles under the capable baton of Brian McIver but since then they have langusihed in the considerable shadow of Crossmaglen Rangers - not a situation that the Derry champions are keen to see extended.
“No, we would like to get the Ulster title back again,” insists Wilkinson.
To do that, though, Ballinderry will have to outgun a Cavan side that boasts a considerable array of experience and flair with the defensive nous of Anthony Forde, Karol Crotty and Darren Rabbitte complemented by the artistic flair of Seanie Johnston and Michael Lyng with the strength and combative qualities of Eamonn Reilly and Nichoal Walsh thrown in for good measure.
Indeed, the Breffni side make no secret of their desire to land the Ulster crown, given that their more recent attempts to climb to the Ulster summit have engendered only frustration. Their manager Mick O’Dowd has considerable experience and is a capable motivator but the Gaels have been unable to face down major challenges in the Ulster Club series of late.
And Wilkinson hopes it will prove a case of same again on Sunday.
“We know that this is a very big test for us but we are up for it. The important thing is that the team wins, it does not matter who gets the scores. We just want to reach the final and prove ourselves on the biggest stage,” maintains the flying Ballinderry forward.