Ballinderry made it three county titles on the trot with a victory that epitomised just why they have established themselves as the dominant force in Derry football since the turn of the millennium.
Clinical when it mattered, the Shamrocks never looked rattled, even when Ballinascreen got off to a superb start and threatened an upset. The lough shore side weathered the early Screen storm and then set about doing what Ballinderry do, win football matches.
Martin McKinless has now taken charge of Ballinderry in five Derry Senior football championship campaigns and the only difference at the end of them has been the identity of the Shamrock hoisting the trophy. Throw-in two Senior Reserve titles with Ballinderry and a Tyrone intermediate title with Derrylaughan and you come up with the incredible statistic that McKinless has never lost a county championship match as a manager.
The Shamrock boss was understandably delighted at the final whistle: “It feels great. It’s beyond my wildest dreams and a privilege for me to be able to deliver that for Ballinderry. We were shaky early on there was a lot of expectation around the three in row we didn’t want to let that slip and it put a wee bit of pressure on the lads but after 10 minutes we opened up and got two good goals and crucial times,” said McKinless.
Underdogs Ballinascreen had started well with Michael McBride’s 11th minute goal offering hope of an upset but majors from Darren Lawn and Michael McIver in the 21st and 22nd minutes proved decisive for the holders.
From that point on their was only one winner and to add insult to injury Ballinascreen saw the Championship’s top scorer Brendan Heron miss two penalties as Ballinderry cruised to victory in the second half with Daniel McKinless adding a third goal to seal the win.
In fairness to ‘Screen they never stopped trying but by the time they eventually breached the Ballinderry net a second time through Paul Burns the jury had already returned the verdict on this match.
But ‘Screen showed no signs of being overawed in the early exchanges as Seamus Bradley opened the scoring after two minutes, driving over from close range. Ballinderry took the lead following Ryan Bell’s long range free and a lovely point on the turn from Colin Devlin but the Draperstown side levelled through midfielder Michael McBride and with 11 minutes gone the midfielder added a goal to his tally with an emphatic finish to see Screen lead by 1-2 to 0-2.
But Ballinderry responded in the style that had seen them win the previous two county finals, with Darren Conway pointing, Ryan Bell converting a 45 and man of the match Devlin adding his second to level matters after 18 minutes.
Have achieved parity, Ballinderry effectively put Ballinascreen to the sword in the space of 60 sixty seconds. On 21 minutes Darren Lawn broke forward, his shot which looked like a point attempt looped over Danny Devlin and crept under the bar. Less than a minute later Devlin was picking the ball out of the net for a second time after Michael McIver rocketed a shot home from the edge of the big square.
Before half-time Ballinascreen’s shredded morale was dealt another blow as Benny Heron tamely scuffed a penalty wide following a footblock by Gareth McKinless . With Conor Nevin getting forward to kick the last score of the second half as Ballinderry led by 2-6 to 1-2 at the break.
To have any hope Ballinscreen needed an early goal but again it was Ballinderry who found the net when Daniel McKinless showed great bravery and presence of mind to fist home after being put through by Aaron Devlin on 44 minutes.
The rest of the game was a procession. There was more penalty trauma for Heron who again failed to find the target this time crashing his 56th minute effort off the bar. Burns did breach the Ballinderry net in injury-time as he got his fist to a dropping ball but the game had long since ceased to be a contest.
Scorers – Ballinderry C Devlin 0-5, D McKinless 1-0, M McIver 1-0, D Lawn 1-0, R Bell 0-3, 1 45, 1f, D Conway 0-1, C Nevin 0-1
Ballinascreen – M McBride 1-1, S Bradley 0-3, 1f, P Burns 1-0, B Heron 0-1, 45, C McWilliams 0-1, D McBride 0-1
Ballinderry: M Conlan; R Scott, C Nevin, M McIver; R Wilson, G McKinless, D Lawn; K McGuckin, J Conway; D McKinless, D Conway, D McGuckin; C Devlin, R Bell, C Gilligan.
Subs: A Devlin for D Conway (ht), E Muldoon for G McKinless (480, F Bell for D McKinless (62), M McGeehan for M Conlan (62), C Wilkinson for Gilligan (62).
Ballinascreen: D Devlin; P McGlade, M McShane, D Scullion; R Devlin, D McBride, K Conway; M McBride, P Bradley; J Scullion, B Heron, C McWilliams; S Bradley, Gavin Kelly, Eamonn Murray.
Subs: E McKillion for J Scullion, E Murray for Kelly (47), G Conway for Bradley (63) S Woods for R Devlin 65, P Burns for Eamonn Muray 66.
Referee: B Cassidy (Bellaghy).
Match report courtesy of Derrygaaa.ie