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Ballinderry boss McKinless to strike a role for McCusker

By John Campbell

Stand by for a shake-up in the Ballinderry side for tomorrow’s AIB Ulster Club football final replay against Crossmaglen Rangers.

Manager Michael McKinless is understood to be considering his options, particularly in relation to the composition of his defence, for the Brewster Park, Enniskillen showdown (3.45pm).

Ronan McGuckin, son of former Derry ace Adrian McGuckin,who came on as a second-half substitute in the drawn contest last Sunday, now finds himself in line for a starting berth and there could be an even more startling selection up front with full-back Niall McCusker perhaps being given the No 14 shirt.

It was McCusker’s late goal after he had made a sortie into what for him is normally uncharted territory that gave Ballinderry a draw and now manager McKinless may be prepared to hone in more closely on his striking power as opposed to his recognised defensive resolve.

Former club captain Kevin McGuckin could find himself re-positioned in the Ballinderry rearguard with his namesake from the substitutes bench pressing for a midfield berth.

The Ballinderry management, more than happy to have witnessed their side earn the right to fight another day, nevertheless clearly believe that there were shortcomings in the drawn game that require remedial action.

Skipper Enda Muldoon was withdrawn from the attack to slot in alongside James Conway at midfield and while Muldoon’s five-star display had much to do with Ballinderry’s recovery, Conway failed to find the form that has helped to make him part of the Derry set-up for the last three years.

Outshone by his more youthful opposite number David McKenna, he was unable to make any real impact in the contest and more will certainly be expected from him tomorrow, whether he is in the side or comes on from the bench.

Conway, brother of former Derry Minor boss who is now with Antrim as part of Liam Bradley’s new regime, is battle-hardened and brings an abrasive edge to the Ballinderry psyche.

Crossmaglen Rangers, relieved that John McEntee has been cleared for action following his red card last Sunday, acknowledge that their Oak Leaf opponents may have derived a greater psychological boost last week-end.

Manager Donal Murtagh pulls no punches in assessing the challenge facing his side.

“We did not manage to keep our focus in the closing stages last Sunday and while we would be unhappy about the two red cards we got, nevertheless Ballinderry stood up to be counted when it mattered most.

“We know they will be prepared to do the same thing tomorrow right from the start so it is up to us to be ready for this,” insists Murtagh.

A seventh Ulster title for his side in just twelve years would be very welcome — but Murtagh drives home the points that it will be hard earned.

“Ballinderry have shown their hunger,” adds Murtagh.

“This is going to be far from easy.”

Belfast Telegraph


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