Ballinderry cruise to Ulster decider
Ballinderry 0-17 Cavan Garls 0-7
Two years ago Ballinderry succumbed to Crossmaglen Rangers in the AIB Ulster Club football final in monsoon conditions at Casement Park, Belfast.
And since then, the Derry champions have yearned for the chance to exact revenge for that debilitating two-point defeat.
Now they have secured their passport into another provincial showdown following their relatively straightforward semi-final outing against Cavan Gaels yesterday – and this time they will have the added incentive of attempting to deprive the Rangers of a third successive provincial crown.
Fate may have dealt the Breffni side a cruel hand when their ace marksman Seanie Johnston and utility forward Paul O’Donnell limped out of the action with scarcely 11 minutes gone but ultimately it was the razor-sharp skills of the buoyant Oak Leaf outfit that carried them through to a 10-point victory.
By half-time yesterday, the Gaels, despite having to lean heavily on their bench, were still neck and neck with Ballinderry at 0-5 each and indeed had shown flash
es of enterprise and flair that boded well for their prospects.
But when Enda Muldoon and James Conway began to reign supreme at midfield, the Ballinderry attack thrived on a bountiful supply which they quickly translated into a catalogue of points that left their opponents floundering. Muldoon, relishing his role as skipper, led by example while Conway proved a trojan worker both in defence and attack.
Collie Devlin, with five points in all, three from frees, and the lively Raymond Wilkinson with three from play, inflicted mortal wounds on the Gaels’ morale while the reinvigorated Niall McCusker proved the proverbial rock at full-back.
Indeed, such was Ballinderry's second-half dominance that McCusker was more often than not seen in an attacking role as the Derry champions exerted control in every sector to leave the Gaels floundering.
Their limited strategy - they played too many first-time balls into a toothless attack - played into Ballinderry's hands to such an extent that the Derry side were able to mount counter-thrusts with consummate ease. Ballinderry even shot 10 wides overall and had they shown a tad more accuracy, further ignominy would surely have been heaped on the Gaels who had no answer to their opponents' physical strength and subtle support play.
The Gaels scored just once from play in the second period – a Niall Murray point after just three minutes - but were then held scoreless until Michael Lyng flighted over a free in the last minute. Sandwiched in between was an avalanche of Ballinderry points with subs James Bateson and Michael Bell joining Wilkinson, Devlin, Martin Harney, Darren Conway and Muldoon on the scoresheet.
It was a comprehensive Ballinderry performance that, notwithstanding the injury woes endured by Cavan Gaels, will surely lend substance to the belief that the Rangers’ mission of landing their third Ulster crown on the trot will be far from trouble-free.
BALLINDERRY: M Conlon; D Bell, N McCusker, C Wilkinson; M McIver, K McGuckin, C Nevin; J Conway, B McGuckin; M Harney (0-2), D Conway (0-1), C Devlin (0-5, 0-3 frees); R Wilkinson (0-3), E Muldoon (0-2, 0-1 ‘45’), C Gilligan (0-1). Subs: J Bateson (0-2) for Gilligan (49 mins), S Rocks for Devlin (55 mins), K P McGuckin for J Conway (59 mins), M Bell (0-1) for D Bell (59 mmins). Yellow cards: J Conway (28 mins).
CAVAN GAELS: E Elliott; J Gurthy, D Elliott, K Meehan; A Forde, E Reilly, R Maloney Derham (0-1); E King (0-1), C Collins; N Murray (0-1), S Johnston (0-1), P O’Donnell; M Lyng (0-2, 0-1 free), N Walsh, D Reilly. Subs; M Dunne for O’Donnell (5 mins), C McClarey (0-1) for Johnston (11 mins), D Graham for Dunne (33 mins), D Meehan for D Reilly (44 mins). Yellow cards: E Reilly (25 mins), McClarey (26), King (29).
REFEREE: Pat McEnaney (Monaghan).