GAA: Ballinderry on verge of three-in-a-row

Ballinderry Shamrock's Daniel McKinless
Ballinderry Shamrock's Daniel McKinless
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Ballinderry and manager Martin McKinless go in search of a third consecutive John McLaughlin Cup on Sunday when they meet Ballinascreen.

The Shamrocks have been in imperious form this season racking up big scores and winning almost every game they’ve played with some comfort.

And that’s not to say that the loughshore side have had an easy path to the final, but frankly to date they’ve been well ahead of the pack.

The Shamrocks now find themselves on the brink of becoming the first side since Bellaghy in 2000 to win three Derry senior football titles in a row and the only the second every Ballinderry squad to achieve the feat after the teams of 1980, 1981 and 1982.

Should they win on Sunday they will also have claimed their fifth county title in eight years.

Indeed it’s a testament to the Ballinderry players and management that they come back year after year.

One man who has made a big impression in the Shamrock’s squad this season is Daniel McKinless. McKinless is adamant that his sides primary focus is on winning Sunday’s game and not on the history that it may create within the club.

“This is another game that we have to prepare for. Our focus is on Ballinascreen. You can see the finishing line now so maybe you start to think about three-in-a-row a bit more but, more importantly, there’s a championship there to win and that’s what we’re trying to achieve. Anything else that comes with it can be enjoyed afterwards.”

McKinless is the son of the Shamrock’s manager Martin and brother of half back Gareth who has also made a big impression in the side this year.

Despite his family connections though Daniel knows he can’t take his place in the Ballinderry side for granted.

“If you’re not playing well, then there’s someone twice or three times a better footballer than you sitting on the bench ready to take your place.

“We have Enda Muldoon on our bench, that’s unbelievable. The strength in depth of the squad is something else. Not many teams could cope with losing too many players or having so many injuries– some clubs might have 12 at training some nights – but we’re fortunate to have so many boys there going flat out every session.

“You have the like of Finty Bell absolutely flying in training at the minute and probably unlucky not to get more game time but you have everyone else flying as well and pushing each other on.

“You’re honestly never sure of your place and that keeps everyone in the squad on their toes.”

Daniel knows that, if he doesn’t put the work, he’ll be sitting on the sideline alongside his father - rather than on the field with his brother.

“You have to get the head down and keep working. I might have played well in a few games but that’s not enough.

“I have to perform in training and, if I don’t, I’ll not be in the team” he stressed.