Superb Slaughtneil make it four Derry titles in a row
Derry SFC final: Slaughtneil 4-12 Ballinascreen 1-11
Slaughtneil defeated Ballinascreen by 10 points to win the Derry Senior Football title for the fourth time in a row yesterday at Celtic Park.
Man of the match Shane McGuigan top scored for the holders with an impressive 2-4, while fellow defenders Chrissy McKaigue and Keelan Feeney also weighed in with goals at crucial times.
Mickey Moran's side seem to get better and better each year as they, once again, begin their quest for both Ulster and All Ireland glory.
Assistant Manager John Joe Kearney, speaking straight after the win, concurred: "I think so.
"Some of the young lads like Keelan Feeney and Shane McGuigan and Meehaul McGrath have come in.
"Previous to that you had Karl and Brendan and Chrissy. You could rhyme them off and none of them would let you down.
"Cormac O'Doherty came in there and did his usual job, gets the most of the ball that goes his way, does the right thing and makes things happen."
Kearney also believes his side are finally getting the credit they deserve for their recent domination of both Derry and Ulster club football.
"I think people have to give us credit now. Four-in-a-row, it speaks for itself. Nobody can take that away from us. It's a very simple thing. Any team that's successful, no different with Bellaghy or Ballinderry, everybody's out there to beat them," he said.
"Once you get up there, you're there to be knocked off your pedestal. That's human nature and you get on with it."
Padraig Cassidy, Shane McGuigan, Se McGuigan and, with the outside of the boot, Christopher Bradley all converted early scores as the holders threw down the gauntlet to a side that had not lifted the John McLaughlin Cup since 1973.
But rather than wilt in the late September Celtic Park sunshine, Ballinascreen burst into life as county star Benny Heron, covering every blade of grass, took the fight to the champions.
Indeed, St Colm's hit four of the next five scores through Shane Mulgrew, Ronan Murphy, Phillip Bradley and the impressive Brendan Herron.
That run of scoring was punctuated by a Chrissy McKaigue goal.
A 21st minute Shane McGuigan goal rocketed into the top left hand corner.
Trailing 2-6 to 0-5, 'Screen talisman Heron led the way, launching a monster point soon after Brendan Herron, also playing very well, scored his second.
But Slaughtneil, as they usually do, had the last word. Shane McGuigan - 1-2 for the half - and Meehaul McGrath both pointed at the fag end of the half to see their side seven ahead at the break, leading 2-8 to 0-7.
Keelan Feeney's 31st minute goal all but confirmed a Slaughtneil victory.
Ballinascreen were offered an unlikely route back into the game when referee Dan Mullan awarded them a 35th minute penalty. But key man Benny Heron saw his well struck effort superbly saved by the diving Antoin McMullan.
Ballinascreen continued to fight with Anton Kelly hitting his side's only goal of the game in the 39th minute.
Shane McGuigan then slotted home his second goal, and Slaughtneil's fourth.
Phillip Bradley was dismissed late on.
The holders were afforded the luxury of missing an injury time penalty when Niall McGlade thwarted Sammy Bradley.
Slaughtneil: McMullan, McNeill, Rogers, Karl McKaigue, McEldowney, Chrissy McKaigue 1-0, Feeney 1-0, Patsy Bradley, Cassidy 0-1, O'Doherty, Paul Bradley 0-1f, McGrath 0-1, Shane McGuigan 2-4 (0-1f), Se McGuigan 0-1, Christopher Bradley 0-3. Subs: Ronan Bradley 0-1 for C O'Doherty (50), Barry McGuigan for F McEldowney (51), Padraig McGuigan for Patsy Bradley (53)
Ballinascreen: Niall McGlade, Phillip McGlade, McBride, Gilmore, Conway, McShane, Bradley 0-2, Burns, Kelly 1-0, McWilliams, Mulgrew 0-4f, Brendan Herron 0-2, Benny Heron 0-1, Murphy 0-1, Grant 0-1. Subs: Michael McBride for P Burns (26), Martin Bradley for E Gilmore (26), Gary Conway for R Murphy (50), JP Devlin for A Kelly (53)
Referee: D Mullan (Glenullin).