Slaughtneil on course to taste glory in Derry decider
Ulster club hurling champions Slaughtneil are in line to land their fifth consecutive Derry title now that they have booked their place in the forthcoming decider against Banagher.
Slaughtneil scored a comprehensive 1-21 to 1-8 victory over Ballinascreen in their semi-final at the weekend while Banagher surprised Kevin Lynch's (Dungiven) by coming out on top in the other semi by 2-11 to 1-11.
They may have brought their formidable reputation to the table but Slaughtneil did not have things all their own way against a plucky Ballinascreen side who were still very much in touch at the interval when deadlocked ensued at 0- 8 to 1-5.
And it was Ballinascreen who landed the only goal of the game up until then when Brendan Heron fired to the Slaughtneil net in the 22nd minute.
While Se McGuigan, Sean Cassidy, Gerald Bradley and Cormac O'Doherty kept firing over points to take Slaughtneil clear after the break, they had to wait until injury-time before O'Doherty pounced for the goal that gave the final scoreline a rather more convincing look.
Banagher, meanwhile, showed plenty of grit and staying power in keeping Kevin Lynch's in check after the Dungiven side led by 1-7 to 1-5 at the break thanks to Corey O'Reilly's opportunist goal.
But Oisin McCloskey was to prove a key figure in plotting victory for Banagher, his brace of goals in the 28th and 48th minutes galvanising his side.
There was little between the sides throughout but in a pulsating finish Banagher kept their nerve to land two points that assured them of victory and their place in the final.
Slaughtneil will remain firm favourites to extend their supremacy within the Oak Leaf county but Banagher, who boast several current Derry county players, could well make things difficult for them when D-Day comes round.