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Third time lucky for Ballinderry manager Martin McKinless

By Declan Bogue

He's been in this position before, Ballinderry manager Martin McKinless, standing around after an Ulster final with a forest of dictaphones all waiting to record what he had to say about the Ulster club final.

But this is the first time he was there as a winner.

In 2006 and 2008, they came up against Crossmaglen in the final, scoring only 0-2 in a grinding contest in the first year. Undoubtedly, the Armagh kingpins have barred their way to ultimate glory, but it's been like that for every other club too.

"Look, over the last years we have run up against the opposition of Crossmaglen, youse know that as well as me, there's no point me emphasising too much on that," said McKinless.

"We probably didn't have the rub of the green on those days, there were days we drew level with them and we just couldn't get over the line. We proved that we were every bit as good as them, we just didn't maybe get the result on the final day."

Going in against Glenswilly and having been strongly fancied from all quarters, he admits now that there was a level of pressure as they faced into this contest.

"To be fair, there was pressure on us as management because it is my third time here and it has eluded us so we got what we deserved."

It was under Brian McIver that the Shamrocks landed the ultimate glory in 2002, but there is a sense of history repeating with another trip to London looming in a fortnight's time, just as it had the class of 2001/02.

McKinless addressed it directly, stating, "The thing about it is that we are in a great position but we have to address the problems as they arise, whether that is in London or elsewhere and push on.

"Nobody wants to go out ... don't get me wrong we have won an Ulster title but when you are there it is a long road back and it is a shorter way to the finish than to get back to another Ulster final.

"So look, we are over the moon about it, we will celebrate it to the best of our ability and after that we will get our feet back on the ground and try to push on."

Although he declared himself on "cloud nine" afterwards, there were times that he was gravely worried, no more so than when Glenswilly got off to an incredible start with a Michael Murphy goal in the first minute.

"In any game you are deeply concerned. Especially when they got a goal and went up into the lead by four or five points in the first half.

"The only good thing about it was that it happened at the right time, it left us time to recuperate and get a lock of scores in the board before half-time. Thank God for Lloyd's (Michael McIver]) goal that left us up at half-time."

Sometimes, the basic skill levels of players is left unpraised and it gets a bit of a bashing from the usual quarters. Nobody in Omagh could have witnessed the array of audacity of the Ballinderry shots and not watched in amazement.

When told his forwards' point-kicking was exceptional, McKinless explained: "Yes, that's what our intention was. In the first-half we played through the centre and then we started to use the wings a bit in the second-half and that's where we got our scores from; out on the wings, long-range points. Our players would be very good at that."

Asked if there kicking is heavily practised he responded, "Well, they are skillful players, there is no point in saying anything else.

"They have all the skills of the day, they are a talented bunch of players and they have shown that over the last five or six years. This is our third Ulster final and funny enough it's our first win."

Finally, he quipped that his son Gareth had no idea he might be sent to mark Michael Murphy, after they switched him and Conor Nevin early in the game.

"No, our plans were probably different but he is the kind of player you could play anywhere. He is very versatile and there is no point in saying any different. He did the job there," finished McKinless.

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