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Shamrocks aiming to go to town against Scots

By Declan Bogue

It might have been the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship, but there was the distinct air of a local row about the opening game between Ballinderry and Clonoe with only 15 miles separating the clubs.

It might only be a short geographical distance but in terms of experience, Ballinderry have travelled a much longer road than Clonoe. In 2008, they won their first Tyrone title in 17 years and the exuberant celebrations ended with defeat to St Eunan's.

Five years on and the one week gap between the Tyrone final and this encounter may have been a factor in the defeat. Although manager Damian Cassidy was not best pleased with the Tyrone county boards' scheduling seven days previous, he wasn't reaching along a similar line for excuses.

"It wasn't a factor," he said about the potential effects of fatigue.

"We didn't tire in the last 10 or 15 minutes. If that had been happening we would have said that was the reason for it but not at all."

The whirlwind start for the Shamrocks was enough to get their noses in front and from there, they could dictate the game. Having entered this arena for the third consecutive year, it was as if they greeted Clonoe at the door with a menacing warning of 'welcome to big school.'

A week before, Clonoe's attacking talents of Connor McAliskey and Dan McNulty were enough to dispose of Carrickmore. There were fears that they could do something similar to a weakened Shamrocks defence, but they held firm instead.

"There were comments coming from a lot of places that we had the worst defence in Derry so we proved that wrong, and we'd be very happy with that," beamed Ballinderry's long-serving coach Martin McKinless afterwards.

He continued, "If you look at the boys we brought on, the strength in depth is unbelievable. It's for them. For them to win an Ulster would be the icing on the cake for the hard work they've put in for the last three years with me and everyone else involved. It's been immense."

In Ulster, the Shamrocks have given us some of the most memorable days of the last decade. Last year, their meeting with Errigal Ciaran was perhaps overshadowed by something outside the whitewashed sidelines; when Errigal's manager Ronan McGuckin refused to take charge against his home club Ballinderry, leaving it instead to his assistant Tommy McDermott to oversee their win.

Aaron Devlin (pictured) drew comparisons with last year's defeat and Sunday, stating: "We maybe took the eye off the game last year with big Ronan being over Errigal.

"This year we had a Bellaghy man (Cassidy) over Clonoe and we don't like Bellaghy getting one over on Ballinderry. It was a big game and we knew Clonoe were going to be tough."

Being able to watch the Tyrone final in person was also an advantage according to Devlin. "You can't really go into battle without knowing your opponents now. It was going to be tough on them playing three weeks in a row, whereas we had the break and we were able to go and watch the game last weekend, gave us a wee bit of an insight into how they were playing," he said.

Undoubtedly, the television screening of the Monaghan county final will be examined as Ballinderry plot their way past Scotstown, who they meet on November 3.

"We weren't even looking as far as Scotstown," commented McKinless.

"This was a big game for us today. The last couple of years we've been turned over too early on so we set our stall out today just to take one step. Thank God we took that step and now we can look forward to Scotstown."

In the meantime, the skelping and the pushing for a starting place in the team will continue around Shamrock Park. The fact they were able to introduce Enda Muldoon, Martin Harney and Kevin 'Moss' McGuckin is testimony that nobody is guaranteed a starting jersey.

"It's competition for places all the time in Ballinderry, you can't take your place for granted," said Devlin.

"There's no man assured of their place, even big Enda's coming on. You have men coming in, like Daniel McKinless, who's come in this year and I think this was the only game he didn't score a goal in.

"We've men like Enda, who has eight Championship medals but only one Ulster. We have men like that who really want to push on. I'm not saying it's their last chance, but they know themselves it's coming to the end of their tether.

"I know it sounds a bit big-headed but you want to win an Ulster. You want to go on and better yourself."

Belfast Telegraph


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