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Ballinderry don't want a final say!

It's ten years since Michael Conlan made his debut as goalkeeper for the Ballinderry Shamrocks senior team.

But in all that period he has never been asked to participate in a match quite like next Sunday's Derry All County League final against neighbours Loup.

And the reason is simple - the match would appear to be totally superfluous.

Ballinderry have remained unbeaten in their fifteen games to date, have a six-point lead at the top of the table and yet a week after completing an arduous AIB Ulster Club Championship campaign by losing narrowly to Crossmaglen Rangers in the decider they are being asked to fulfil what they describe as being an 'artificial' league final.

It would appear that a decision was taken at the outset of the league that the top two teams in the competition would meet in the final when all the scheduled matches had been completed.

And that's why Conlan and his colleagues must now find the necessary motivation to face a Loup side who have had the opportunity to become re-energised lately while Ballinderry were doing battle against Mayobridge, Errigal Ciaran (twice) and Crosmaglen.

"It's certainly not a match for which we have any great enthusiasm as you might understand," says Conlan, who has also worn the No 1 shirt for the Derry county side in the past.

He makes the point that Ballinderry's consistency throughout their league campaign should have been sufficient to earn them the title and questions the wisdom of staging a final at this time of year.

"Look at the kind of weather we had to endure last Sunday. It was the same for both teams, of course, but I'm thinking here of the spectators and others. It's very difficult to comprehend why a league final should have to be played deep into December and against such a background, too," says the Ballinderry custodian.

Conlan's comments follow Mickey Moran's observations on the need for the re-introduction of a close season.

Moran has criticised the fixture planners and suggested that all county championship campaigns should be completed within a five-month period.

"This makes sense," agrees Conlan, "In our case, we had a six or seven week period during the summer when we did not have one league game. On top of that, there was a ten-week gap between the staging of our championship quarter-final and our semi-final tie. Is it any wonder that we are shaking our heads now that we are being asked to play a league final at this time of the year and against such a backdrop too?"

Ballinderry will be without the enterprising Sean Donnelly for Sunday's match while Kevin McGuckin picked up a knock against Crossmaglen but should be fit.

Loup hope to have seasoned campaigners Johnny McBride and Paul McFlynn on duty. Both have recently announced their retirements from the Derry county squad.

Belfast Telegraph


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