They may have had to wait half a dozen years to get back to playing in the Ulster Club championship but when it comes to this competition Errigal Ciaran again demonstrated that they are the best equipped Tyrone team to progress in it after winning an enthralling encounter with Ballinderry on Sunday afternoon, writes Kevin Kelly.
The sizable crowd at Healy Park were treated to a brilliant spectacle between two well matched sides with centre half forward Tommy Canavan proving to be the match winner with his fifth point of the game deciding the issue deep into injury time.
It was a contest that had everything - big hits, great tackles, superb scores as well as two sending offs - and kept the supporters on the edge of their seats right to the end. Errigal Ciaran keeper John Devine was delighted with his side’s display after the game.
“This is a new side in Errigal with most of those lads playing in their first Ulster campaign and they really stood up to the mark the day when it was required”, said John.
“It was a tough, uncompromising battle and we expected nothing less from Ballinderry as they are a very good side. Even when we went five in front I knew that it wasn’t over and when they drew level they looked to have all the momentum but thankfully we pulled through with that late point from Tommy and results like this can only stand to our young boys in the future.”
Full forward Bryan Horisk opened the scoring with a superb point in the fifth minute but that was cancelled out moments later with an equally fine strike from Derry star Conleith Gilligan. The superb Canavan then landed a score from distance before Caolan Tierney got on the end of a flowing move to split the posts as well. The Tyrone champions had made the perfect start and when Canavan made no mistake from a thirty metre free on the right wing they held a 0-4 to 0-1 lead with a quarter of an hour played.
They were to score just once more in the first half though as Ballinderry finally came into the game. The lively Colin Devlin turned sharply to take a good point before the same player registered again from an almost impossible angle. Ballinderry had their tails up and Gilligan sent over the equaliser after selling his marker a good dummy. The hard working Ciaran McGinley, who was one of the best players on the field, hit a brilliant point from a tight angle to briefly restore his side’s lead before a great move saw Devlin get his third point of the half to leave it 0-5 each at the break.
Whatever was said to Errigal Ciaran in the dressing room at halftime certainly had the desired affect as they registered five points within ten minutes of the restart to leave them in control.
Canavan converted a free before Davy Harte weighed in with a trademark effort with the outside of his boot from distance. Errigal Ciaran were on a roll and when a Canavan point was quickly followed by a Horisk brace they led by double scores.
Thirteen minutes into the second half they received a further boost when Ballinderry corner back Conor Wilkinson was sent off for a second yellow card offence but Canavan was off target from the resulting scoreable free and then things began to go wrong. Damian McDermott was straight red carded three minutes later and the Derry lads lifted their game to a new height. Substitute Dermot McGuckin pointed before his cousin Kevin pushed forward from full back to hit a quality score.
The visitors were now on top and after Enda Muldoon knocked over a “45” substitute McGuckin left it a one point game. Errigal Ciaran were under pressure and when Devlin’s fourth point of the afternoon levelled matters the Derry men looked the likely winners. The superb Peter Harte though made a vital interception and three minutes into injury time he also won the crucial free which Canavan converted to send them into the semi final were they will face St.Eunans Letterkenny or reigning All Ireland champions Crossmaglen.