Scotstown 0-10 Ballinderry 1-8: If the Ulster club is a furnace, Ballinderry Shamrocks have shown they can live with serious heat and pressure as they fashioned a victory on an evening when it appeared they had already drifted too far from shore.
Scotstown had nullified Ryan Bell with Kieran Hughes playing at full-back. The full forward line of Nicholas Corrigan and Darren Hughes was a constant threat and the Derry champions were in all sorts of bother from kickouts.
Their scores had no real pattern, more examples of opportunism than anything else. This was exemplified most strikingly by their fourth point on 23 minutes when Aaron Devlin latched onto a poor sideline kick.
Points like that are frequently forgotten in the final analysis, but without that score Ballinderry might have been sent out of this Championship.
Referee Noel Mooney was a picky influence on the game, often drawing play back to reprimand a late hit when the action might have been better had it continued. But when the Shamrocks needed to claw themselves out of a tricky hole, they were able to manufacture enough frees to keep themselves in contention.
On the sideline, manager Martin McKinless reacted by bringing Bell out to the middle of the park and they used all their experience to get back into the contest.
A foray forward from Gareth McKinless drew a free that Colin Devlin clipped over to narrow the gap to three with 15 minutes left.
A big hit from Darren Hughes on Devlin resulted in another free that Conleith Gilligan stroked – it appeared wide from the press box, but nonetheless was signalled with a white flag. Gilligan added another two minutes later.
With a few decisions going against them, Scotstown began to wilt in the heat. They sent on David McCague to add physicality to midfield. McKinless made another dash through the Scotstown defence, found himself an overlap and played a quick exchange of passes with James Conway that took him into the danger zone. A flick of the ball across goal later and substitute Darren Conway palmed the ball into the net to put Ballinderry ahead by two points.
A response came with a long-range free curled over beautifully from Kieran Hughes, who was breaking from defence and running forward in his swashbuckling style throughout.
From Mickey Conlan's kickout, Darren Hughes caught cleanly and worked it through brother Kieran, to Turley who cleared the crossbar and left the contest level with time almost up.
The next kickout was thumped long from Conlan and ended in the grateful and safe hands of Enda Muldoon. He travelled with it and his delivery went straight onto the 'D', evaded Colin Devlin with a bounce and was transferred by hand by James Conway to Bell, who angled it inside the post with his left foot for his first point of the day, and the winner.
Scotstown: R Beggan (0-1, 1f); D McArdle, D Morgan, M Duffy; P Keenan, W Carroll, E Caulfield; F Caulfield, J Turley (0-1); K Hughes (0-2, 1f), S Carey (0-1), D Hughes [Capt] (0-1); P O'Hara, N Corrigan (0-1), C McCarthy (0-2, 2f). Subs: B McGinnity (0-1) for E Caulfield [h-time], O Heaphey for Corrigan [38m], F McPhilips for Keenan [50m], D McCague for F Caulfield, Corrigan for Carey [57m]
Ballinderry: M Conlan; R Scott, C Nevin [Capt], M McIver (0-1); R Wilson, G McKinless, D Lawn; K McGuckin, J Conway; D McKinless, A Devlin (0-1), D McGuckin (0-1); C Devlin (0-2, 1f), R Bell (0-1), C Gilligan (0-2, 2f). Subs: K M McGuckin for A Devlin, E Muldoon for R Wilson [h-time], D Conway (1-0) for D McKinless [43m], J Bateson for McIver [52m]
Referee: Noel Mooney [Cavan].